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EXCLUSIVE: ‘The perfect match’ – Bearman and new team boss Komatsu on the 19-year-old’s multi-year Haas deal

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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Ollie Bearman struggled to keep the smile off his face when the news was announced he would be making his full-time Formula 1 debut with Haas next season.

His boss Ayao Komatsu was delighted, too, the Japanese Team Principal making 19-year-old Bearman the first Formula 1 driver signing of his career.

F1.com spoke exclusively to both to hear why Ferrari have been so key to Bearman’s rapid rise and why Haas were so keen to bring the Briton onboard for next year.

READ MORE: F2 star Ollie Bearman promoted to F1 with Haas for 2025

Komatsu: ‘Ollie is the perfect match for Haas’

Ferrari – who signed Bearman to their driver academy in 2022 – and Haas have been discussing Bearman’s future for nearly a year.

So highly do Ferrari rate Bearman, they have given him hundreds of hours of time in the simulator and hundreds of laps in Formula 1 machinery to get him up to speed.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Haas F1 looks on in the garage during

Bearman has been signed to Haas on a multi-year deal

If that commitment didn’t show their belief in him, throwing him into the car in FP3 at this year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – at one of the hardest tracks in F1, when he was required to sub in for Carlos Sainz – and watching him go on to deliver points certainly did.

But that sensational performance wasn’t the sole reason for Komatsu accelerating talks to nail a deal down for Bearman.

ANALYSIS: Why Haas opted to sign Ollie Bearman – and who will partner the British youngster for 2025?

“Of course it was a good factor, but it wasn’t the dominating factor,” Komatsu tells F1.com. “I already saw in Mexico and Abu Dhabi last year what he is capable of and how amazing it was to work with him. I was more impressed with that.

“We have the first-hand experience with him – including the end of season test and more FP1 sessions. Seeing how he could jump into a Ferrari in FP3 in such a difficult track like Jeddah and perform how he did, it wasn’t a total surprise knowing how he worked with us. It just gives us more confidence in him.”

Ollie Bearman signs for Haas on a multi-year deal

Komatsu adds: “We are almost restarting the team. We’re improving and we have aspirations to be more competitive. We need someone dynamic, someone young, someone who is talented but has a really good head on his shoulders. For me, Ollie’s profile is the perfect match for where we are as a team and where we want to go.”

‘His baseline was already very high’

Speak to those at Ferrari’s Driver Academy and they will tell you that Bearman’s strengths are vast – with his intelligence and ability to absorb information quickly and utilise it efficiently right up there in terms of his key attributes. Komatsu saw this almost instantly.

READ MORE: ‘The level of support is incredible’ – Ollie Bearman on Silverstone’s magic, his latest FP1 chance with Haas and his F1 prospects

“His baseline was already very high,” he says. “I’ve been impressive with how he reacts to adversity. If you have a reliability issue and lose one run in the session, how will he react to that? If he wasn’t in tune with the car or how it was behaving – how did he address it? It’s more about how he deals with those situations – and so far, he’s doing that really well.

“I remember working with him for the first time in Mexico for the FP1. He said himself, he had lots of pressure – but in terms of how he handled himself, it was impressive.

Ollie understood what the team was looking for in terms of programme and answers we needed to get

Ayao Komatsu

“Lots of drivers in that situation, they might focus on their own performance or trying to get the quickest lap time, but Ollie understood what the team was looking for in terms of programme and answers we needed to get and what role he can play driving in FP1 in one of our cars in the bigger context of the race weekend.

“When he drove, he drove accordingly so we could generate good data. To do that at such a young age and first time in FP1 was impressive.

TREMAYNE: Bearman’s F1 debut was one of the most accomplished and impressive I’ve witnessed in 36 years of F1 reporting

“Another thing that impressed me was that he was very clued up on tyre management for the high fuel long run. He was proactive in the sense he overmanaged to start with, but he realised that himself. Of course, we fed back information, but he could react to that. His awareness was impressive.

“We saw that in the qualifying simulation – he didn’t get best out of it on the first run. But after the cool-down lap, we gave him information where he could get better. He digested it and improved on the following lap. He showed calmness and maturity.”

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 27: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain driving the (50) Haas F1 VF-23

Bearman's Mexico FP1 debut impressed many at Haas

Bearman is in incredibly likeable person, who lights up a room as soon as he walks into it and opens his mouth. He very quickly settled into Haas, which has always been a team with a close-knit family feel (this was one of the key attributes that attracted Kevin Magnussen to the team and got the best out of him back in 2017). Every time he’s worked with the team, he’s brought a buzz.

“For this team to improve, the driver is a key part,” adds Komatsu. “He’s got a natural personality which is very motivating and positive. This is great because it is a tough job. We have 24 races, and triple headers, so it can get tiring.

“To have someone like him – a bubbly guy, a really positive guy – it just lifts the whole team up. If the driver is leading in that way, it helps the team raise its game.”

READ MORE: ‘I've never seen anything better than that' – Legendary engineer Jock Clear on Bearman's F1 debut

Bearman: ‘I’ve found a perfect new family in Haas’

It’s long been believed that Bearman would be making his Formula 1 debut next season – but it wasn’t until after last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, just a couple of days before the news would be made official, that he found out for sure that the Haas drive was his.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Bearman tells F1.com. “In F1, nothing is confirmed until the pen is on the paper, and that was actually on Wednesday morning. It’s been a crazy few months. I’m really happy to have it official and out there.”

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 16: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Haas F1 prepares for a seat fitting in

Bearman feels at home in the Haas environment

“[When I signed the deal] it was a flood of emotions. You think of all the moments you’ve had in your career since day one, the amount of hours you’ve put in, all those wet days in karting, and those cold days with snow on the track, those early wake ups and missing a lot of memories with friends – it all becomes worth it.

“I can’t wait to see what the future holds. It’s only the beginning. This 10-year journey I’ve been on, it’s all led up to this point – and now I’m starting again.”

READ MORE: From backmarker brilliance to stand-in stars – 10 times F1 drivers put themselves in the shop window with stunning performances

He’s doing so with a multi-year deal in pocket – a real vote of confidence from Haas and his backers Ferrari, who have had a close technical partnership with their American rivals since the team was formed in 2016.

“I’m happy they have trusted in me and seen my talent,” he says. “It fills me with a lot of confidence. That vote of confidence is really important. It’ll help me learn through my rookie season and learn as much as I can and be prepared for the future. And I can’t wait to get started.”

Inside Story: Bearman's stellar F1 debut

‘I’ve got a long time to get prepared – and a lot I want to do’

Before that, he has to complete an F2 campaign which built some momentum in Austria as he clinched his first victory of the season and fourth of his career. He’s also got four more FP1 sessions with Haas this year to learn more about his future new office. And there’s plenty of time to build up his physical training.

When I ask what he needs to work on, he laughs and says: “A bit more neck training! You can never be too strong in the neck, that’s something I learned the hard way in Jeddah. You don’t want the physical aspect of driving the car to be on your mind. So of course I’ll be working hard in the gym to be ready for Australia [in 2025].

READ MORE: How hard is the step up from F2 to F1? Jolyon Palmer explains the challenge faced by Oliver Bearman in Jeddah

“I’ve got a long time to get prepared – and I’ve got a lot I want to do. I want to improve my technical knowledge about the F1 car, there’s a lot more going on than what I have been used to. Getting up to speed on that side of things can help me with my on-track performance.

“I have more runs in F1 – more testing with Ferrari and more free practices with Haas. Now knowing it’s official, I can take maybe a bit of a different mindset and use these opportunities as preparation for next year.”

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 28: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and PREMA Racing (3) drives on track

Bearman still needs to keep his eye on the F2 prize

Bearman is revelling in the environment at Haas and very quickly felt like he was part of the family – helped in part by his strong training at Ferrari that had readied him for such an opportunity.

“Haas in general have been a great bunch of people to deal with,” he adds. “They’ve been so welcoming, so kind and so helpful. I feel like I found a perfect new family with them. I just find myself at home with them.

“I feel like I can be really productive in this atmosphere. Thanks to Ayao who has brought a really good atmosphere into Haas. I’m excited to get to know them a bit better.”

READ MORE: Who is Oliver Bearman? The new Ferrari rookie’s career so far

He adds: “Ferrari have been instrumental in getting me into F1. More recently, Fred [Vasseur, Ferrari Team Principal] has been working closely with me and trusting in me. There are not many people in his position who would have taken the risk on an 18-year-old without any Grands Prix under his belt in Jeddah.

“Through their support, they got me up to speed on the sim, they gave me a lot of testing and they gave me a race. It’s been fantastic. The collaboration has been instrumental.”

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