Oliver Bearman reveals ‘really special’ message from idol Sebastian Vettel before F1 debut

Jamie Woodhouse
Oliver Bearman smiles in the Ferrari garage.

Oliver Bearman smiles.

Oliver Bearman was feeling the “pressure” in a nice way after four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel reached out to him ahead of his Formula 1 debut with Ferrari.

18-year-old British racer Bearman had been readying to go racing for the second round of his Formula 2 campaign in Saudi Arabia, setting himself up perfectly by securing pole for the feature race. However, his plans soon changed in dramatic fashion.

Oliver Bearman receives ‘really special’ message from Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz went into the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend feeling unwell, missing media day on Wednesday before returning for practice on Thursday. The following morning though he underwent successful appendicitis surgery, meaning Ferrari needed to make a swift call to Bearman and inform him that he was about to take over in the SF-24.

And Bearman wowed the F1 paddock on debut, claiming P11 on the grid before racing to an impressive P7 finish, a race which former Ferrari driver Vettel was keeping a close eye on.

Bearman revealed that Vettel had been in touch ahead of the race, which did increase the “pressure”, though in a positive way as he was a “huge fan” of Vettel throughout his F1 career. The message clearly served as great motivation.

“I did get a lot of congratulations and also good luck messages before the race,” Bearman is quoted by Sky Sports F1.

“My favourite one was from Sebastian Vettel. I’m a huge fan of his since the early days. Up until he retired I was always rooting for Seb, so to get a message from him was really special.

“To know that he was watching me put a bit of pressure, but it was a nice pressure.”

Bearman also received recognition from another F1 legend, that being Vettel’s former rival, seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

After Hamilton and McLaren’s Lando Norris found no joy in their mission to hunt compatriot Bearman down in the closing stages of the Saudi Arabian GP, Hamilton applauded Bearman and gave the thumbs up from his Mercedes cockpit when driving past the teenager on the cooldown lap.

Hamilton was then waiting to embrace Bearman in the pit lane.

“And I got a hug from Lewis after the race,” Bearman continued. “That was nice that he kind of recognised the race for me and was a proud moment.”

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As well as support from some of his peers for the day, Bearman revealed that he also had guidance from Sainz, who remarkably was back in the Ferrari garage a day after his surgery, where it turns out he was doing more than just watching the grands prix.

Instead, Bearman said Sainz was guiding him through the race, while team-mate Charles Leclerc was also more than willing to pass on some tips.

“It was great to work with F1 drivers,” Bearman declared. “It’s great to see the level that they perform at, that they work at, it’s something that I strive to be able to do.

“To get the tips from Charles during the weekend, especially in qualifying but even before the race.

“And Carlos during the race, he was pretty much guiding me through it through what he saw in the data and was feeding it to my engineer.

“It was fantastic and really helped me speed up the learning process and I got up to speed a lot quicker because of that. It was amazing.”

Ferrari are yet to confirm whether Sainz will be back in action at the upcoming Australian Grand Prix, where Bearman will be present either way with the third round of the 2024 F2 season set to share the race weekend at Albert Park.

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