Analysis | Bearman’s debut: special talent shows remarkable consistency

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Analysis |  Bearman's debut: special talent shows remarkable consistency

Oliver Bearman probably couldn’t have wished for a better Formula 1 debut. The only eighteen-year-old Briton traded his pole position in Formula 2 to fulfill his boyhood dream at Ferrari, and there are few stories that ended as successfully as his debut. It was not only successful because of the result, but also because of his entire performance. F1Maximaal delves into the figures and found out what made Bearman’s debut so special.

Bearman’s debut quickly became something of a fairytale on paper. While he was busy preparing for the Formula 2 sprint race, he suddenly received a call asking if he wanted to fill in for the sick Carlos Sainz. Of course, no young talent would turn down that opportunity, so the choice was quickly made. Bearman would complete the rest of the race weekend in Saudi Arabia as a Ferrari driver.

Yet his debut was anything but ideal. The young talent had already completed a few test moments behind the wheel of a 2023 Haas car, but he did not gain any real experience with it. These were completely different circumstances than what he was presented with: the debutant was only thrown into the deep end during the third training session on one of the most difficult circuits of the calendar. He only knew the car from the simulator, but when you make your debut for one of Formula 1’s most prestigious racing teams, certain expectations come with it.

First laps mainly a great search for rhythm

Yet he managed to live up to those expectations. In Formula 1, mistakes can of course happen, but Bearman managed to surprise friend and foe with his strong performance. The young Brit kept his head above water, kept his car neatly on the track and even managed to score points. So he really showed his muscles during qualifying and the race, and apart from one small mistake it was an excellent debut for Bearman. His lap times also suggest that he has had a very strong first weekend.

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Table 1. Comparison of the lap times of Bearman and Leclerc.
Table 1. Comparison of Bearman and Leclerc’s lap times from laps 1 to 7.

If we compare the Brit’s lap times with those of his temporary teammate, Charles Leclerc, it is noticeable during the first seven laps that Bearman was still looking for the right rhythm. The table above shows that he opened with a 1:42.621, which was almost six seconds slower than the 1:36.681 that Leclerc set on the first lap. From that moment on, however, things only got better and the difference between the two men became smaller and smaller.

Bearman drove five seconds faster during his second lap, while Leclerc became about two seconds faster. As a result, the debutant set a time of 1:37.415, while Leclerc recorded a 1:34.179. Bearman therefore made up more than two seconds compared to his teammate, and he continued to reduce that difference in lap time in the laps that followed.

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Analysis |  Bearman's debut: special talent shows remarkable consistency
Bearman had some difficulty finding the right rhythm during the first laps. (Photo: Ferrari F1 Media)

Things picked up again towards round five, although this could have various causes. For example, Bearman drove on the soft tire while Leclerc had medium tires on the car, so that could possibly explain a lot. It was therefore not an unnecessary luxury when Lance Stroll’s hard impact resulted in a Safety Car. This allowed both men to make a pit stop without losing too many positions.

The lap times of laps seven and eight were on the high side due to the pit stops, and during lap nine the car was still driven behind the Safety Car. However, from lap ten it was time to get back to racing, and with both Leclerc and Bearman on the hard tires it provided a perfect opportunity to sit down and analyze the lap times.

Bearman really gained steam after Safety Car

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bearman leclerc analysis lap times 8 to 50screenshot 2024 03 12 at 113010 pm
Table 2. Comparison of Bearman and Leclerc’s lap times from laps 8 to 50.

Judging by the lap times from lap 10 to lap 20, it was noticeable that Bearman was still searching. The gap with his teammate fluctuated regularly, although in no case was there more than two seconds between the two men. It soon turned out that this would be a harbinger of what the young Brit would really be capable of, because the thirty laps that were to follow were, in a word, impressive.

Bearman only really seemed to gain steam when a successful overtaking action gave him ninth position on lap 21. From that moment on he set one consistent lap time after another: from lap 24 to lap 37 he continuously rode 33s, each time with only a few tenths difference compared to the lap time of the previous lap.

From lap 38 he even stepped up his game, ending the race with no fewer than thirteen laps of 32s. He even seemed to accelerate along with Leclerc, because the Monegasque was never more than a second faster on one lap from lap twenty. One or two laps it happened that the difference between them was nine-tenths, but in thirty laps that was considerably little.

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Analysis |  Bearman's debut: special talent shows remarkable consistency
Bearman didn’t do that bad in Saudi Arabia compared to his temporary teammate. (Photo: Ferrari F1 Media)

In the end, Bearman’s lap times were so consistent that he came out on top several times in the head-to-head duel with Leclerc towards the end of the race. For example, on lap 48 he was more than one second faster than his teammate, and in the end there was only half a second difference between the fastest laps of the two men, in Leclerc’s favor.

The lap times showed that the young Briton drove an extremely successful race in Saudi Arabia, although there is still a lot of remarkable hidden behind the simple lap times and differences with Leclerc. These differences fluctuated regularly during the race, although the average difference between them was less than five-tenths. With an average difference of 0.481 seconds in favor of Leclerc, the debutant was able to keep up with the pace of the experienced Monegasque.

Bearman puts young talents back on the map

All in all, Bearman drove a truly special race as a debutant behind the wheel of a Ferrari car. His consistency even came close to the level of consistency seen in Max Verstappen’s lap times, and that says a lot about Bearman. The fact that a debutant can show such consistency during his first Formula 1 race in a car like this is in itself unprecedented.

Many teams are anxious when it comes to hiring young talents, because there is never really a guarantee of success and that is often a risk that both the smaller and larger racing stables do not want to take. Yet it seems that Bearman is pointing out the errors of judgment to the Formula 1 establishment. He was definitely the best option to come on as a substitute, especially since he was already in Saudi Arabia when he got the call. However, his performance ensured that the young talent could once again make a good impression.

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oliver bearman ferrari saudi arabia 4
Bearman sometimes came into conflict with the experienced drivers during the race, but otherwise remained silent. (Photo: Ferrari F1 Media)

Regardless of one’s experience, talent does not simply disappear. Nyck de Vries gave it a try in 2023 after an impressive debut, but was able to pack up after six months, but everyone is still talking about Liam Lawson’s first Formula 1 races to this day. The New Zealander impressed with daring moves, and Bearman did so by showing his muscles and driving very consistently.

Early in the season, Bearman became the perfect example of what a young Formula 1 driver should be and be able to do. Don’t be afraid, take risks and still get the car to the finish line in one piece, and find and maintain a certain rhythm. It is not easy: if it were, everyone would be able to compete in Formula 1. Yet Bearman shows that all young talents of this generation would be perfectly capable of moving with the premier class of motorsport.

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