10 March 2024

Lewis Hamilton leads praise for ‘future star’ Ollie Bearman after dream debut

10 March 2024

Lewis Hamilton lauded “phenomenal” Ollie Bearman as a “future star” after the British teenager completed a dream 24 hours by securing points on his Formula One debut for Ferrari.

Bearman was drafted in as a last-minute replacement for appendicitis-hit Carlos Sainz and after qualifying 11th, made up four places in Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to finish seventh – remarkably two positions ahead of Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Hamilton.

Hamilton applauded Bearman as he drove past him following the chequered flag and then waited by his Ferrari to embrace the 18-year-old.

Hamilton, 21 years older than his countryman, said: “To be pulled out of your class and put straight into a Ferrari, and then to go straight into practice, he did such a phenomenal job and it has just showed he is a really bright future star.”

Bearman had been due to compete in F1’s feeder series, Formula Two, in Jeddah before Ferrari told him only a handful of hours before final practice on Friday, that he would be replacing Sainz – becoming the youngest British F1 driver in the process.

Following surgery, Sainz was back in the paddock for Saturday’s race. Despite walking gingerly, Ferrari expect the 29-year-old Spaniard, who will next year make way for Hamilton at the scarlet team, to be back in his cockpit for the Australian Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.

Bearman was thrust into the spotlight after just two practice run-outs for Ferrari’s B team Haas last season – but his showing under the lights may have helped fast-track his progression to the big time.

Although a full-time seat at Ferrari is not on the cards for 2025, both Haas drivers’ Kevin Magnussen, 31, and Nico Hulkenberg, 36, are out of contract at the end of the season.

And George Russell, who finished one place ahead of Bearman, said: “I fully expect to see him on the grid next year, or the one after.

“He did an amazing job, coming in at a circuit like this which is extremely difficult. He exceeded everybody’s expectations and he caught a lot of people by surprise. He clearly had confidence from the off to push the car to the limit.”

Away from Bearman’s impressive debut – which saw him win the fan-voted driver of the day award – Mercedes endured another disappointing evening. Russell and Hamilton crossed the line 40 and 47 seconds respectively behind Max Verstappen, who stormed to his second win of the season and ninth in a row stretching back to last year.

“There is something we need to spot and unlock and it is not by a lack of trying,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

“We push so hard and we are going to give it a massive go in the next week to come back to Melbourne stronger. I am 100 per cent sure we are going to unlock that performance gap.

“I have changed my mindset, and I don’t think additional pressure on us makes it better. I can see the buzz in the organisation. You feel down but we are trying to turn that into motivation. That is why we believe we can turn it around, and I am 100 per cent sure we can.”

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