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THE GUENTHER STEINER COLUMN: Why I’d sign Bearman – and why I should have left Haas earlier

Former F1 Team Principal

Guenther Steiner
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Hello and welcome to my first column for F1.com. I’ve left my job as Team Principal of Haas but you’ve not got rid of me just yet! I’ll still be around in Formula 1 working on various projects, including writing these columns across the season.

We’ve got a great story to kick off with. Ollie Bearman did a very good job when he stood in for Carlos Sainz at Ferrari in Jeddah, just like he did when he drove for Haas in FP1 in Mexico and Abu Dhabi last year.

INSIGHT: How Ferrari super-sub Bearman made his mark on and off the track in Saudi Arabia

Coming in to replace Carlos at the last minute – that was a lot of pressure on him. Let’s not forget, he was on pole for the F2 race – he was already excited about that – and then getting the news he had to replace Carlos the next day must have been a lot to deal with. But you wouldn’t have known. He was very cool throughout.

Jeddah is a one of the toughest tracks on the calendar, it isn’t easy there. If you make a mistake they are normally very costly. He did a good job – and obviously teams will be looking at him.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 26: Track marshals clean debris from the track following the crash of

From his time as Haas Team Principal, Steiner knows all too well how the Jeddah Corniche Circuit can bite drivers

When he drove in FP1 for us, I never feared he’d do something you wouldn’t expect. He was always in control. He did the same in Saudi Arabia. Was I surprised by what he did in Jeddah? No. I had faith he could do that.

I think he has a good future in the sport. He just needs to stay calm and I have no doubt he will do that.

Running Bearman at Haas

Last year, Fred Vasseur from Ferrari called me and asked if we could run Ollie – who is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy – in a couple of FP1s, which is part of every team’s commitment to run a young driver in at least two practice sessions – because he thought he could do a good job. We said yes. There was no big discussion.

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

It would be difficult for me to argue with Fred about young drivers because he has good experience working with them, and for sure he did his homework before coming to us and asking to put him in our car.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 27: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and MoneyGram Haas F1 Team during

Bearman's steady approach impressed Steiner at Haas

Before Ollie drove, I sat down with him, but not at length – we had maybe 10 minutes. I basically said, ‘Don’t overdo it’. I never had the fear he would do something silly by trying to impress. He’s smart. Talking with him, I got the feeling very quickly that he knew what he needed to do. He was clearly not the kind of person who you ask him something and he says ‘yes’ and thinks something different.

READ MORE: Vasseur reflects on ‘fantastic’ Bearman performance in Saudi Arabia as Haas boss Komatsu calls him the ‘total package’

He understood he just needed do a good job, get the feeling of the car and bring it home – and that’s it. He realised his career was not depending on those FP1s. He had a bigger plan.

I was really impressed at how calm he is. He gives himself time, he’s in no hurry. That must come from his background, and the way he was brought up by his family. They must have helped him to do this – and they’ve done a fantastic job. Because he’s so young – 18 is nothing - he’s got time on his side. He’s in the Ferrari Driver Academy and he knows that if he does a good job, he has a good future in F1.

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2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: F2 pole to F1 points for Oliver Bearman

‘I’d put him in a race seat’

Based on his performance in Jeddah, after what I saw from him at Haas, I’d put him in a race seat. Obviously, it depends on the circumstances and what seats are available. You need to see the whole landscape, but he would be a candidate.

Obviously, it is not 100% that he will succeed. It’s still a risk. But the way he handled himself in qualifying and the race in Jeddah, having just had one hour of practice, suggests the risk is so much smaller.

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

For prospective employers, that drive will have taken a lot of doubts away of what he is able to do. He’s in a good place as at the end of this year, there are a lot of contracts up with drivers, so he can put himself in good a position. He can’t go anywhere he wants, but I believe there is more than one opportunity for him.

He has a contract with Ferrari, I don’t know how long it is. If you were interested in him, you’d go and speak with Ferrari and see what they want to do and see if something can be achieved. You of course need to see what is happening in your team with the drivers. Do you want him or are you happy with what you’ve got?

I think a lot of teams will proactively look at him now after his performance last weekend. If I see the potential, other people will see it as well, so I think there is a good possibility for him to get a seat next year.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: 7th placed Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Ferrari talks to

Where might Bearman end up on the F1 grid?

‘I stayed at Haas too long’

Life has been good since I left Haas ahead of this season. These last few weeks are the first time I’ve switched off from F1 for around a decade. This time has been good for me. The longer time goes on, the more I can see that I stayed at Haas too long.

When you step away, you get clarity – and you can see what you need to do. While you’re there, you’re in denial, you think you can do it but you cannot.

READ MORE: Steiner addresses Haas exit, the moment that ‘stung’ and his future F1 plans

When I was there, with what we had, you could still fight for being seventh, eighth or ninth – but you couldn’t fight for podiums without the same weapons as the other guys. Doing that in the long-term is not what I want to do in life. I don’t want to be seventh again. I’ve done that. I want to be able to fight, to battle at the front.

When Toto Wolff started with Mercedes, the team at the time was not at the top. Yes, they had the advantage of the engine at the beginning, but he set everything up right to be successful in the mid-term – and they won eight constructors’ championships. It’s the same thing with Red Bull. How long did it take for them to get there? Every year, they kept on getting better. You need that patience and long-term planning.

I would come back to F1 in the future, but it needs to be the right project, done right.

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