Ollie Bearman could become a reserve option for Haas after Pietro Fittipaldi’s full-time IndyCar drive was confirmed this week, but the 18-year-old has been warned against making headlines for the wrong reasons on his FP1 debut at the Mexico City Grand Prix.
Fittipaldi will join Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2024, limiting his ability to carry out the full-time reserve duties he’s held at Haas in recent years. While team principal Guenther Steiner says the team will look to retain Fittipaldi in some form, he acknowledges another option is likely to be needed and Ferrari young driver Bearman could be one.
“We have to figure that one out,” Steiner said. “I’m speaking with Fred [Vasseur]…about reserve drivers next year but we haven’t come to a conclusion,” Steiner said. “I don’t think we lose [Pietro] completely; we will look into what’s possible and what’s not.
“Obviously we know the calendars. We had a chat today about it, and it also depends on how much testing — because in IndyCar they do a bit more testing than we do here — but Pietro is part of the family. If we don’t have him around we miss something.
“We’re looking into what we can do along with Ferrari, which reserve driver they have available and things like this.”
While Steiner has been impressed with Bearman’s approach so far, he’s warned the rookie not to try and prove too much on his first FP1 outing for the team.
“You’re always a little bit nervous,” Steiner said. “I think — and hopefully I’m proven right tomorrow — he knows that the biggest mistake he can do is overdo it.
“I explained to him that we are always judged by the things you do badly, not the things you do good, because if you do everything right nobody will remember, but if you crash the car on your first outing in F1 in an FP1, that will be on your resume for the rest of your life…if you ever make it into F1 because of that! I made him aware of that and I think he’s smart enough to know that he doesn’t want to do anything stupid.”
Bearman himself says it’s advice he’s taken onboard as he prepares for his FP1 debut during an F1 weekend.
“Of course, like Guenther said, there’s no positives, nothing to win on a Friday — it’s a mandatory session and I just need to bring the car back,” Bearman said. “But at the same time I’m really excited to get going. It’s going to be really fun. I’ve already driven an F1 car in Fiorano so I’ve got a taste of what it’s like at full gas, and this will just be building into it and hopefully bringing some useful data for the team as well.
“No targets; no targets from anyone — even from myself. I think it would be silly to set any expectations. My first target is just to enjoy it. I’ve had it drummed into me a lot now — there’s nothing to win from here. Just do a solid job, build up step-by-step and enjoy it as well. That’s my target.”
The PREMA Formula 2 driver would also not be drawn on any reserve role hopes, but says he is keen to take advantage of being in the paddock so early in his career.
“It’s really cool to be here so young, just to have my foot in the door,” he said. “I think the main goal of this weekend is to get to know people and show them what I can do, and come across as a good guy. It helps that I’m young; I’ve got a lot of time to get here.
“Obviously it’s great news for Pietro to get a full-time drive. My primary focus is F2 and it will continue to be F2, but anything on top of that is obviously a bonus. No pressure — just try and do a good performance here and let’s see.”