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Oliver Bearman Does Not Need to Rush Into F1

formula 2 championship round 2 jeddah feature race
Oliver Bearman Does Not Need to Rush Into F1Joe Portlock - Formula 1 - Getty Images

On Friday, Oliver Bearman's 11th-place qualifying finish on debut in place of an ailing Carlos Sainz Jr. was the first interesting footnote in a season that had so far been defined by continuity and continued Max Verstappen dominance. Bearman stepped it up with a strong run to seventh on race day, instantly the most impressive top-car debut since George Russell's near-win with Mercedes at Bahrain in 2020. The Ferrari driver's race comes with one major distinction: While Russell had been racing in F1 with Williams for almost two full years before he stepped into the Mercedes, the 18-year-old Bearman had never raced above the Formula 2 level before his first run in a Ferrari.

Naturally, that instantly makes Bearman one of the most exciting Formula 1 prospects since Russell and Charles Leclerc came through Formula 2 in the late 2010s. While his junior formula career has been impressive, it is nothing compared to what he did in the Ferrari. Racing well for position at the F1 level is a purely theoretical thing until you actually do it. No string of F2 victories is going to compare to a race where Bearman drove a good-not-great car well in an actual on-track fight on F1 tires against Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, and George Russell.

f1 grand prix of saudi arabia qualifying
Eric Alonso - Getty Images

It puts the Ferrari junior driver on everyone's radar, not just for the 2025 offseason and beyond but as a potential mid-season replacement this year. Teams like Haas, Williams, RB, and Sauber came into 2024 with drivers who were seemingly extended only in an absence of better options. That leaves about a quarter of the grid already on a hot seat, and now Bearman joins RB reserve Liam Lawson as the second young driver outside of the sport who has already proven themselves competitive in an F1 car. His status as a Ferrari junior driver complicates the process of getting to another team, but he has no real path to replace either Hamilton or Leclerc any time soon and Oscar Piastri's high-profile extraction from Alpine proved that such a thing can be done on short notice with creative enough attorneys.

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Bearman has a reasonably strong junior formula resume, but his numbers do not match the most elite in the world. Both Leclerc and Russell won titles in both Formula 3 and Formula 2 on debut, a feat matched by Piastri. McLaren driver Lando Norris accomplished his own honor, skipping what we now call F3 to grab an impressive second on debut in F2 behind Russell. Bearman, by contrast, finished third in his first F3 season and followed that up with sixth in his first year in F2.

f1 grand prix of saudi arabia
Kym Illman - Getty Images