Ollie Bearman’s Dazzling Debut in Formula 1 at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

It began like any other race weekend. But, as the sun set over the Jeddah track for the Saudi Arabia Formula 1 Grand Prix, there was a new driver on the grid and anticipation reached fever pitch.

Qualifying in F2

Targeting a rebound performance at one of his favourite tracks, Ollie Bearman was looking to get his Formula 2 Championship battle underway. Little did anyone know that fate had a different plan for the young driver.

However, with all that yet to unfold, Ollie got to work, setting the pace in Formula 2 practice sessions and qualifying. Clinching pole position on Thursday by 0.025s for Saturday’s Feature Race - Ollie was then thrown the curveball of a lifetime that would completely shift the trajectory of the weekend.

F1 Practice

While preparing for the Formula 2 Sprint Race on Friday, the news broke that Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz had been diagnosed with appendicitis. Ferrari called upon Ollie, as one of their reserve drivers, to step into Carlos’ shoes - or shall we say Ferrari seat, for the rest of the weekend.

With just one hour to get used to the car in the Final Practice session of what was now a Formula 1 race weekend, Ollie was about to become the first British driver to drive for Ferrari since the late 1990s.

Qualifying in Formula 1

In his first F1 qualifying session, Ollie missed out on the third round of qualification (Q3) by a mere 0.036s, qualifying in 11th place. The prospect of securing his first F1 points loomed as he geared up for Saturday evening’s main event.

Formula 1 Race Debut

After a great start to the race, Lap 6 saw the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll hit the barrier, prompting the Safety Car. Backing up the pack, the majority of drivers - Ollie included, came into the pitlane for fresh tyres.

With new, Hard compound tyres and the Safety Car coming in, Ollie spent the next few laps in pursuit of the Haas of Nico Hülkenberg. By Lap 21, Ollie was getting used to DRS - an F1-specific mechanism where drivers can facilitate closer racing by opening their rear wing with one press of a button. Not available in F2, Ollie put it to full use, snatching P9 from Hülkenberg’s Haas.

Now officially into the points and hungry for more, Ollie spent the remainder of the race trying to catch the Mercedes of fellow British driver, George Russell. As Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton pitted much later in the race, both rejoined the track behind Ollie with just a handful of laps to go.

Ollie had to defend his now 7th position from both Lando and Lewis who were just seconds behind, both with considerably fresher tyres. His immaculate work did not go unnoticed by Ferrari Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur, who told Sky Sports F1 that Ollie’s defence against Hamilton and Norris was impressive. He said,

“It is a fantastic job. It was amazing management. The race is one thing, but management - from the beginning of the event, Ollie was very solid.”

Securing his first points in Formula 1, Ollie finished the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 7th place, collecting six points in the F1 World Championship - placing him 10th, just two points behind seven-time World Champion, Lewis Hamilton.

Ollie achieved the fifth fastest lap in the Grand Prix, behind teammate for the day Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Lando Norris. Winning hearts as well as fans, Ollie also won ‘Driver of the Day’, securing almost half of the public vote.

Returning to Formula 2 with new experience to his name and points in the F1 World Championship, Ollie will next head to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, 22-24 March.