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Leclerc says ‘it’s a matter of time’ before Bearman joins F1 grid after Saudi stand-in performance

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 9: Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Scuderia Ferrari and Oliver Bearman

Charles Leclerc has heaped praise on his surprise stand-in Ferrari team mate for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Ollie Bearman, remarking that the Briton’s points-scoring debut was likely just the beginning of a longer career in Formula 1.

Formula 2 contender Bearman became the third-youngest driver to ever start an F1 race after appendicitis struck down Ferrari regular Carlos Sainz on Friday, with reserve driver Bearman stepping up from Free Practice 3 to take over the Ferrari SF-24.

READ MORE: 'It's 88 missed podiums!' – Verstappen reflects on 100th F1 rostrum appearance as he praises ‘fantastic’ Bearman

After missing out on Q3 in qualifying by 0.036s – to no less a driver than seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton – Bearman turned heads with an assured performance in the race at the challenging Jeddah Corniche Circuit, bringing his Ferrari home P7, ahead of both Hamilton and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Reflecting on Bearman’s race after finishing P3 himself behind the Red Bull pairing of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, Leclerc said that the teenager’s performance had been “extremely impressive".

He continued: “I think everybody has seen that, but obviously having him in the same garage, seeing how he worked and how he approached this whole situation with so much calm was very, very impressive – obviously with so much excitement as well.

“But it was really impressive. I think he has shown the whole paddock what he was capable of and I think after a performance like that, it's a matter of time before we see him permanently in the Formula 1 paddock.”

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2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: Oliver Bearman crosses the line to seal points finish on F1 debut for Ferrari

He added: “I mean he’s done an exceptional job to get into a Formula 1 car in FP3 when all the drivers have had FP1, FP2. You don’t know the car, the track is one of the most challenging of the season and you get there, you do the first three laps in FP3 and you are straight away on the pace and pushing the car to its limits. So it’s been super impressive to see him so fast straight away, super nice to see him so happy all weekend and so excited as he was, and he’s done an amazing job.”

Regarding Ferrari’s own performance in the race meanwhile, Leclerc praised the team for their improvements over the past seven months – while vowing that Ferrari would be challenging the Red Bulls in the not-too-distant future.

SUNDAY MORNING DEBRIEF: Why Ferrari's deficit to Red Bull was halved in Saudi Arabia

“We maximised everything today,” said Leclerc on Saturday night. “We were struggling all the time at the beginning of the stints, whether it was at the beginning of the medium or the beginning of the hard, we struggled to switch the tyres on.

“Then towards the end of the stint, we were pretty good with the medium… With the hard, we saw that [the pace was good] towards the end, but it was too late to actually recover what we had lost at the beginning with the battles we had. So all in all, it's been a positive race.

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Leclerc on Bearman in Jeddah: ‘Unbelievable – he’s done an exceptional job’

“I think we're doing small steps in the right direction,” he added. “If I look back, the last six, seven months, we're the team that have improved the most, and we're slowly closing the gap. The gap is still quite big, but if we keep working like that, I'm sure it's a matter of time until we put the Red Bulls under a bit more pressure.”

READ MORE: Bearman ‘destroyed’ after points-scoring Ferrari debut as he reflects on ‘good showing’ in Saudi Arabia

Ferrari trail Red Bull by 38 points in the constructors’ standings after two races in 2024 – with Leclerc P3 in the drivers’ standings.

logo 2024Drivers' standings after Saudi Arabia

PositionTeam NamePoints
1 Verstappen51
2 Perez36
3 Leclerc28
4 Russell18
5 Piastri16
6 Sainz15
7 Alonso12
8 Norris12
9 Hamilton8
10 Bearman6
11 Hulkenberg1
12 Stroll1
13 Albon0
14Zhou 0
15 Magnussen0
16 Ricciardo0
17 Ocon0
18 Tsunoda0
19 Sargeant0
20 Bottas0
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