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TIMELINE: Ollie Bearman’s ‘whirlwind’ 24 hours in Jeddah that saw him go from F2 pole to F1 debut

F2 & F3 Writer

Jake Williams-Smith
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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Ferrari on the grid prior to

It doesn’t get much more pressurised than making your Formula 1 debut for the famous Scuderia Ferrari, but 18-year-old Oliver Bearman took it in his stride.

Named reserve driver for the team ahead of the 2024 campaign, even in his wildest dreams, Bearman wouldn’t have been expecting to become a last-minute substitute in Round 2 of the year, certainly not around one of the most demanding tracks on the F1 calendar in Jeddah.

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

And yet he was just 0.036s from knocking seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton out of qualifying and making the final segment, before going on to race to an incredibly impressive P7 on Saturday night.

With just one hour of on-track preparation, here’s the inside timeline on how Bearman made his F1 debut on less than half a day’s notice.

WEDNESDAY – MEDIA DAY

1718

Journalists’ mobiles starting dinging, as Ferrari announce that Carlos Sainz is feeling unwell and would return to his hotel in order to rest and recuperate ahead of Free Practice 1 and 2 on Thursday.

Over in the F2 paddock, Bearman has already completed his media commitments for the day with PREMA Racing.

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

THURSDAY – F1 PRACTICE & F2 QUALIFYING

1630

Carlos Sainz, looking a little green around the gills, is back in the paddock and gearing up to take on free practice as normal. Ferrari confirm the Spaniard will be at the wheel of the SF-24, and he finishes the session 0.134s down on Charles Leclerc.

1800

Bearman, looking to rebound from a tough opening weekend in Bahrain, having left scoreless, appears back on form and secures pole position for PREMA in F2 qualifying. The Briton records a 1m 42.217s for what is his fourth pole position in the championship. The F1 cars were lapping the track around 14 seconds quicker at this stage of the weekend...

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

2000

Sainz returns to action in FP2 for Ferrari with his condition yet to be diagnosed at that stage of the weekend. He finishes seventh in the order, a hugely impressive effort given that we now know the Spanish driver was at the wheel battling through appendicitis, unbeknownst to him and the team at the time.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Ferrari speaks with Ferrari

Bearman got the call-up from Ferrari Team Principal Fred Vasseur (R)

FRIDAY – F1 QUALIFYING & F2 SPRINT

1100

While Sainz is still eager to drive in the remaining sessions of the weekend, a diagnosis of appendicitis renders that impossible.

1300

Ahead of F2 Sprint Race day, Bearman turns up to the PREMA garage as normal, but things begin to move quickly.

He is asked to report to Ferrari in the F1 paddock and leaves the F2 team to begin his informal preparations. Sainz’s withdrawal from the remainder of the Grand Prix weekend is just lacking official word.

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

1419

Carlos Sainz will take no further part in the weekend. There’s more mobile dinging in the media centre as Ferrari confirm in a statement that the Spaniard requires surgery having been diagnosed with appendicitis. As one of the team’s reserve drivers, Bearman is his replacement.

PREMA confirm that the Briton will not be replaced in the team for the Sprint and Feature races in F2, leaving Andrea Kimi Antonelli to represent the team in the sole remaining car.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 07: Andrea Kimi Antonelli of Italy and PREMA Racing (4) drives on

Antonelli was left to fly the flag for PREMA in F2

1500

Bearman has switched from PREMA red to Scuderia red and is undergoing an intensive few hours before he climbs into the car for FP3. Sainz’s race engineer Riccardo Adami goes through the complexities of the Ferrari steering wheel in the garage with him, while mechanics make plenty of alterations to the car ahead of final practice.

Off come the number 55 stickers, on go 38 in their place. Adjustments are made to the pedals to fit Bearman’s 6ft 3in frame, along with seatbelt and headrest changes to fit the 18-year-old.

The British driver is then required to complete the FIA jump-out test in order to satisfy regulations before he is given the seal of approval to take to the track.

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

1630

FP3 is go and Bearman takes to the circuit for the first time in the Ferrari. He has just one hour to prepare for qualifying around the high-speed twists and turns of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

His tyre preparation lap is nearly 10 seconds quicker than his F2 pole time. During the session, he gets some pit stop practice before getting a sighter lap in for qualifying later. There are still some adjustments to be made though, with the 18-year-old requesting alterations to the headrest.

He finishes the session 10th overall, just behind Hamilton’s Mercedes and seven-tenths behind team mate Charles Leclerc.

1805

Ferrari confirm that Sainz has undergone successful surgery and is resting at the hospital.

Bearman is midway through debriefs and meetings with the team ahead of qualifying around one of the toughest venues on the calendar.

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2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: Oliver Bearman's impressive F1 debut race drive

2000

Having had less than an hour’s worth of on-track preparation time and after soaking up as much information as possible between sessions, Bearman heads out to make his F1 qualifying debut.

With his father David watching on in the garage, and after one or two close shaves with the barrier, Bearman ends up 11th on the grid, recording a 1m 28.642s – 13.575s quicker than his F2 pole time.

He is just 0.036s off making Q3 and knocking out Hamilton, who praises Bearman’s “impressive” efforts after the session.

Team mate Leclerc was equally impressed, saying the Briton had done an “incredible job” to be up to speed so quickly and looking as competitive as he had.

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

2130

Bearman reflects on his qualifying experience and undertakes F1 media duties. While he summarised his session as “messy,” he became the youngest Ferrari driver in the team’s illustrious history and came incredibly close to making the final part of qualifying.

Team Principal Fred Vasseur sings his praises afterwards, saying the rookie had dealt very well with his late call-up and performed admirably. He added that Bearman would still be learning steering wheel functions overnight in preparation for the race on Saturday.

With Bearman going on to finish seventh in the race, the Ferrari team boss added that his preparations in F2 had been evident. Bearman was able to step into the car and perform to the highest level that could be expected, bringing home points on his F1 debut in impressive fashion.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Ferrari prepares arrives on

Bearman handled the pressure with aplomb

“F2 is the most competitive series in the world after F1 and it definitely prepares drivers for their step up into F1,” said Vasseur. “Teams and drivers are very closely matched, and they also learn a lot about tyre management, which is extremely important in F1. The fact that the F2 races are run on the same tracks as the Grands Prix is again a massive help for drivers.”

Bearman himself was thankful for the preparations he’d been able to carry out in Formula 2, with his pole position lap evidence of the impressive pace he displayed in the Ferrari on Friday and Saturday night in Jeddah.

READ MORE: Wolff admits he's 'guilty' of talking too much about F2 hopeful Antonelli as he seeks Hamilton replacement

“Having competed in F2, not only on the same weekend but in general, has been really useful for my adaptation into F1. It's the next-best thing to F1, and there’s a lot of techniques that are applicable across both championships.

“I competed on Thursday in F2 and set pole, so I already had a good feeling of the track and managed to get straight up to speed in F1 as a result.

“It’s a testament to F2 and everyone at F2 in general how quickly I was able to adapt to the challenge because it was a steep hill to climb. The fact that I competed there that weekend was very helpful in that regard.”

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