‘If I was Fred Vasseur’ – Helmut Marko’s bold plan for Oliver Bearman after incredible Saudi debut

Thomas Maher
Oliver Bearman smiling with a prominent Ferrari badge alongside him

Oliver Bearman made his F1 debut with Ferrari in Jeddah after Carlos Sainz was ruled out

Helmut Marko may not have any say over Oliver Bearman’s future but, if he did, he’s revealed what would be next for the 18-year-old Englishman.

Having made a stellar F1 debut on the streets of Jeddah as Bearman came home seventh as he stood in for the ill Carlos Sainz, the British driver’s next driving appointment will likely be a return to Formula 2 – unless Sainz is somehow unable to resume his cockpit next week in Australia.

Helmut Marko: Oliver Bearman’s debut was sensational

With Bearman part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Helmut Marko has no ability to influence the British driver’s future in Formula 1.

In the past, Marko’s keen eye for talent has uncovered gems like Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, and Sebastien Buemi, thanks to him overseeing Red Bull’s own junior driver programme.

Bearman’s calm and measured debut, qualifying 11th before racing to seventh and not collapsing under pressure as Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton hunted him towards the end of the race, gained Marko’s notoriously hard-to-earn praise.

“I thought Ollie Bearman’s debut in the Ferrari was sensational,” Marko wrote in his column for Speedweek after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“To be on the road like that on a track like Jeddah without much training was very strong. At times he was almost on a par with Charles Leclerc.”

But while he may not be able to help Bearman out, Marko has outlined what he’d be doing with the British driver if he was in a position to be able to make a call over where to put Bearman and get him on the F1 grid.

“But what is Ferrari doing now?” he said.

“They buy the expensive [Lewis] Hamilton, Leclerc has a longer-term contract, and now Bearman is a super talent.

“If I were Fred Vasseur, I would immediately find Bearman an F1 cockpit in another team, I don’t know, at Haas for example.

“Now they’re going to have to spend money again to train him. The teams are relatively financially saturated at the moment, so they will have to pay dearly.”

Marko and Red Bull are well known for taking chances on young talent, an attitude that helped them to uncover generational talents like Vettel and Verstappen, and Marko suggested that Bearman’s debut showed he possesses similar “exceptional” talent.

“Bearman – but also our Liam Lawson last season or Pedro Acosta’s debut in MotoGP – shows what real exceptional talent looks like,” he said.

“Of course, the youngsters today are all well prepared when they step up. But only if someone is really good can they achieve such performances right from the start.

“I found the way Acosta attacked Marc Márquez incredibly refreshing, just like Bearman’s performance in Saudi Arabia. That’s what we all want to see.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 2025 driver line-up: Who is already confirmed for the 2025 grid?

Six silly F1 2024 predictions we wish we could change already

Jack Doohan: Teams should take a chance on F2 talents

Alpine reserve driver Jack Doohan, who cheekily joked about finding what causes appendicitis following the news of Sainz’s diagnosis and his sidelining, said after Bearman’s seventh place that F1 teams should be more willing to take chances on Formula 2 talents.

With precious few risks being taken on drivers stepping up from the feeder series, Doohan said F2 is proving the ideal stepping stone for drivers to hone their skills – but more teams need to take punts on the drivers that prove themselves.

“It certainly does,” he told the F1 Nation podcast when asked about whether the category shows its doing its job of creating drivers that are ready for F1.

“It’s so up and down to say, Formula 2 is so close that a team that gets it right with a driver on its day, and the team that doesn’t could be three-tenths off – you could be sitting at the tail end of the top 10 or even outside and that is the difference.

“Prema with Ollie, he’s a top-tier and top-class driver. They didn’t get it right in Bahrain and they were P18 and P19 on the grid. They come to Jeddah and he qualified on pole, completely contrary to one week ago, and then showed that he can jump into a Ferrari Formula 1 car and do very special things as well.

“So it shows that the calibre of the field is very high. It’s always been very high. But us young drivers are ready and these teams… they should take a chance on us.”


Read Next: Felipe Massa blasted for ‘ridiculous’ F1 2008 title case: ‘He just wants a wedge of wonga’