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Ferrari super-sub Bearman says missing Q3 in quali debut 'hurts' as Leclerc looks to ‘surprise’ Red Bulls in Saudi

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: 11th placed qualifier Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Ferrari

Ollie Bearman came within 0.036s of making Q3 in his first ever Formula 1 qualifying, after a whirlwind Friday that saw the 18-year-old get called up as a replacement for the appendicitis-stricken Carlos Sainz for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Sainz took part in Thursday’s practice sessions, but was forced to call a halt to his weekend after being diagnosed with appendicitis – the Spaniard successfully undergoing surgery on Friday.

READ MORE: Sainz ruled out of Saudi Arabian GP with appendicitis as F2 racer Bearman steps up to replace him

In his stead was flung 18-year-old British F2 hopeful Bearman, who was given just one unrepresentative session in Free Practice 3 to get up to speed with the Ferrari SF-24’s handling around the daunting Jeddah Corniche Circuit before qualifying began under the floodlights.

There, Bearman breezed through to Q2, only for a slightly scrappy second segment to cost him a Q3 appearance – Bearman just 0.036s off the time of his fellow Briton and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

After describing himself as “shocked” by the performance of an F1 car around Jeddah – having claimed Formula 2 pole here the day before – Bearman explained his incredible Friday, saying: “I woke up this morning focusing on my F2 race, starting P10, trying to think, how can we maximise that. And then at some stage it was clear that I had to get in the F1 car.

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‘It hurts’ – Ferrari super-sub Bearman on just missing out on Q3 on F1 debut

“What a great opportunity of course, huge best wishes for Carlos and his recovery. But it’s a great moment and opportunity for me and I’m ready to maximise it. Bit disappointed with the qualifying, but overall I can’t be too disappointed.

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

“It was so close, so close,” he added of the margin to Q3. “That’s why it hurts a bit more. I made a mistake on my first push [lap] so I had to do it on my second and the tyres aren’t really the best there, so my mistake and I’ll take that on the chin.”

Asked about his goals for his maiden Grand Prix, Bearman – set to be the youngest rookie driver ever for Ferrari in F1 – said: “Just bring the car back. Try and get some points, that would be a bonus, but build up my mileage, get some experience. It’s my first race, so I can't expect much, and this is a really difficult track as well.”

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 on track

A last-gasp effort gave Leclerc P2 on the grid

In the other Ferrari, Leclerc gave Ferrari something to cheer about by sticking his SF-24 on the front row of the grid alongside pole-sitter Max Verstappen, telling the media afterwards: “The first lap in Q3, we tried something different with doing a preparation lap but that didn’t work out well for us. Then in the second lap I put everything together and that was what was in the car today.

“I’m really happy with the lap, shame that we are a bit further away than what we hoped in qualifying, but tomorrow’s the race and I hope we’ll have a good surprise and that we’ll be able to challenge the Red Bulls.”

READ MORE: Verstappen takes pole position for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as he heads Leclerc and Perez

Asked about Bearman’s performance, meanwhile, Leclerc added: “First of all I hope Carlos will recover quickly. Then on Ollie’s side, he’s done an incredible job, obviously with only one session in FP3. He was straight up to speed and comfortable with the car, so it’s good, I’m happy for him obviously.

“It’s a very special day and the first race in Ferrari having done only one session I guess is even more so special. I hope that tomorrow we can have a great race both of us and score good points for the team.”

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