Home Featured What Bearman’s F1 mindset was before his surprise call-up

What Bearman’s F1 mindset was before his surprise call-up

by Formula Scout

Photo: Ferrari

Before even getting his surprise Saudi Arabian GP call-up, Ollie Bearman knew he had a busy season of F1 work ahead of him. But was he preparing himself for that in such a big year for his racing career?

The biggest news at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has not been one of the various storylines that have continued from Bahrain the previous week, but the suprise Formula 1 debut handed to Ollie Bearman at Ferrari.

Considered one of the favourites for the 2024 Formula 2 title, the 18-year-old from Essex had a dire start to his season last weekend as he qualified 18th and could do no better than 15th in the two F1-supporting races at Bahrain. Those who had paid attention to pre-season testing at the same venue would’ve already seen Prema’s lack of pace, and the comments made by Bearman and his team about it being a track-specific struggle.

But it was such a struggle that it led to some self-questioning about whether the uncompetitivity could continue. However once Bearman hit the track in Jeddah this weekend he knew he was going to be rapid once more. The outcome of that on Friday was taking pole, but now he will be denied the opportunity to start from the front of the F2 grid (and potentially go two rounds with no points since his entry has been withdrawn) as he will driving in F1’s race instead.

A lot can change in a week, and Formula Scout spoke to Bearman in the Bahrain paddock about what his aims were with the F1 work he already scheduled: that being six free practice appearances with Haas, a rigorous testing programme with Ferrari and pitwall shadowing at various grands prix with the two teams since he is the reserve driver for both.

“The goal of these runs is just to prepare me for F1, so just getting up to speed faster, getting on the pace, finding confidence in the car, giving good data for the team as well and showing them what I can do,” said Bearman.

“I think I did a decent job at the end of last year with my two FPs and I just want to continue working and building up. It’s a great opportunity; I want to make the most of it.

Photo: LAT Photo

“Of course [being Ferrari’s most established junior driver] is an opportunity. Especially now I’m a reserve driver for Ferrari and for Haas. It’s nice that they have faith in me for that. But at the end my main goal is F2 and the F1 side is very much in the back of my mind at the moment especially with all the work we have to do at the moment, F1 is not on my mind.”

That certainly changed on Friday morning in Jeddah when Ferrari announced that Carlos Sainz Jr had appendicitis and needed surgery so Bearman would be taking his place for the rest of the race weekend. It’s an opportunity far bigger than a free practice outing for Bearman to show what he is capable of in an F1 car, and could prove to be key to his ambitions to be on the grid full-time in 2025.

However there won’t be a seat at Ferrari free next year, as the team has already signed seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to replace Sainz and be team-mate to Charles Leclerc. But that could still work to Bearman’s advantage.

“There’s no doubt [Hamilton] is one of the best drivers of all time,” Bearman said to Formula Scout. “So it’s great to bring some experience for the team and I hope he can bring his talent and push the team forward as well. It’ll be great for everyone. I’m sure he’ll bring his knowledge and everything, which is great for me as well.”

After Saudi Arabia, Bearman’s next scheduled F1 mileage on a race weekend is in FP1 for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on May 17. His outings with Haas after that are in June, July, October and December.

“The FP1s aren’t for a while, so I’ve still got time to focus on F2, which is of course my main commitment,” he said after taking pole in Jeddah.

“Eventually I will have to do the FPs, but it’s a fantastic opportunity, to make the most of it and see it as a positive. More laps on track. Where we get very limited track time [in F2], I get quite a few laps more. So I aim to make the most of that, even if it’s a different car.

Photo: LAT Photo

“And it’s been really nice to kind of get to know the engineers in both Ferrari and Haas. They’ve definitely helped me. Also I have a pretty intensive test programme coming up with Ferrari, which is helpful as well. More laps is always a good thing.”

Looking back at his first F1 test, which was at Ferrari’s own Fiorano test tack last October, Bearman told Formula Scout it was a “pretty emotional” experience.

“You see all the greats – Schumacher, Alonso, Vettel and more recently, Leclerc, people like this. Pulling out of that Shell garage and I managed to do that two years after my first appearance in Fiorano in Formula 4 so it was a really quick development and it makes me very proud.

“My mum and dad were there to support me so it was a very proud moment for my parents and emotional too.”

Bearman’s father attends every F2 round and is used by his son for “mental support” and to be “someone to kind of fall back on” when things go wrong. However his mother is usually absent.

“She’s a bit superstitious, she doesn’t like coming to the racesm,” he revealed to media in Jeddah. “It seems like every time she comes, I have a bad race. So she stays at home now. She’s not invited anymore.”

While the focus is on F2, Bearman has begun preparations for an F1 future in less obvious ways such as moving to Italy and working on speaking the local language of both Prema and Ferrari. He detailed the lifestyle changes to Formula Scout.

“[My fluency] is getting there. I speak a lot of Italian with my trainer and within Ferrari. I’m not great. I mean, it’s not perfect grammar, but they understand what I’m saying and it’s the best way of learning. I change all the languages on my phone, on my TV and my car. Everything’s in Italian and it’s a good way to learn.

Photo: Prema

“I got a new apartment [in Modena] and it’s nice to be living there pretty much full time. I’m fully Ferrari, through-and-through now.”

As for the cuisine, he adds: “I prefer to go and buy some pasta. My cooking needs some work but I definitely need to be better at cooking eventually. If I want to succeed I need to cook better.”

Bearman also needs to swap his right-hand drive car from the UK for something more suitable for Italian roads, and while Ferrari has not supplied a company car from its own fleet yet his race debut this weekend may change his eligibility for one.

Bearman interview by Roger Gascoigne