Oliver Bearman reveals ‘very clear’ Fred Vasseur advice before Ferrari debut at short notice

Henry Valantine
Oliver Bearman after his Ferrari qualifying debut.

Oliver Bearman after his F1 qualifying debut with Ferrari.

Oliver Bearman revealed Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur told him “don’t try to be a hero” in qualifying, after being thrown in at the deep end for his F1 debut.

Bearman qualified an impressive 11th a matter of hours after being told he would be replacing the unwell Carlos Sainz, who is missing the weekend with appendicitis, missing out on Q3 by just 0.036s on Friday evening.

Oliver Bearman: ‘I honestly didn’t have time to get nervous’ before Ferrari debut

Bearman apologised to the Ferrari pit wall for his “messy” Q2 session after narrowly missing out on the final part of qualifying, with the Scuderia reserve driver having already taken pole position in Formula 2 for the weekend.

His involvement in his regular seat was suspended as a result of his impromptu promotion to Formula 1, and even though Sainz showed signs of feeling unwell on Thursday, the British teenager had no signs before the session that he would be making his full F1 debut this weekend.

“Honestly, no,” Bearman told reporters in Jeddah when asked if he had any kind of inkling last night that he would be in the car on Friday.

“I woke up this morning fully prepared and fully ready for my F2 race. I got the call pretty late on in the day, just a couple of hours before FP3 that I would be doing it.

“Of course, it’s not the circumstances I would like to make my F1 debut and I wish the best to Carlos and hope he recovers well but, nonetheless, it’s a fantastic opportunity.

“I honestly didn’t have time to get nervous or to overthink it because it was so late that I literally had to focus straight away on trying to get up to speed and catch up for lost time.

“Having missed out on Thursday, it made my life a little bit more difficult, I’d say. So yeah, I was pretty much flat out with the engineers trying to figure out everything.

“I didn’t have time, I was just focused on what to look out for and what to do. I didn’t have time to think about the gravity of the situation.”

Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur has a long track record of promoting youth talent in the sport, not least as team boss of ART Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton was there in GP2, and the 18-year-old revealed the short-but-sweet advice he offered him before heading into his first ever Formula 1 qualifying session.

“Fred doesn’t say much but what he says, he means,” Bearman said.

“He was very clear to me that I have to build it up step by step. Don’t try to be a hero. Especially after FP3, which was already a good session, his goal for me was just to keep going like that and build it up step by step.

“It’s a big step from F2 in terms of physicality. But I always feel prepared to make my debut, that’s what I’ve been training for if this F1 opportunity comes up and it has.

“That’s my goal, no mistakes, build it up and get to the end, avoid any carnage and build up some experience for myself.”

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After the weekend finishes, regardless of what happens, Bearman thinks he will be able to look back on his debut weekend with pride, and revealed just how quickly he has moved through the junior categories on his way to this point.

“I think on Monday, I’ll be quite proud,” he said.

“At the moment, I’m just trying to maximise things and get some points because that’s my big goal. I’m sure when I take a step back and pinch myself, I’ll be quite proud.

“Since the announcement, I think my phone has been going crazy. I was literally from the car to the engineers, back to the car. It’s been a really busy and flat-out day.

“The goal of F2 is to get to F1. I get this opportunity, there’s no way I’m gonna let it go. I think, if I do a good weekend here in F1, it shows a lot more than winning the feature race and doing well in F2.

“So I did half the job in F2, I took pole. Hopefully I can bring back some points tomorrow and show what I can do.

“It’s been such a quick progression in my career. Two years ago, I was in F4 still. I only did my first F1 test like three months ago. So it’s been a really quick progression.”

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