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Why Hamilton defeat by F1 rookie Bearman was no Saudi shock

Why Hamilton defeat by F1 rookie Bearman was no Saudi shock

Why Hamilton defeat by F1 rookie Bearman was no Saudi shock

Why Hamilton defeat by F1 rookie Bearman was no Saudi shock

The 2024 Saudi Arabian GP was another display of dominance from Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen, but the F1 champions were not Saturday's star attraction for many.

That accolade went to the unexpected Formula 1 newcomer who stepped into Carlos Sainz's SF-24 and drove it up the order for a point-scoring maiden grand prix at one of the most challenging venues on the calendar.

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What a way for Ollie Bearman to introduce himself to a global audience of millions and show that, despite no rookies in F1 2024, the talent pipeline to the top is brimming with quality.

For many, Bearman was an unknown quantity before he stepped into the Ferrari race suit in Saudi Arabia, but years of success meant his duck-to-water debut shouldn't be a shock.

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Ollie Bearman's Karting Start

Hamilton and Bearman began racing karts

As is the case for many racing drivers, Bearman's motorsport journey began in the karting world.

Following in the footsteps of fellow Brits Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, and George Russell, touring the U.K. was how the Chelmsford-born racer spent many of his teenage weekends.

Bearman began to learn the basics of his race craft in Honda Cadets in 2013, but the serious years started in 2019 as he stepped up to the more powerful X30 engine.

Championship drives followed, and a 14-year-old Bearman ended the year as the IAME Junior winner in both Euro and International Series, with the latter coming in a last-lap victory at Le Mans.

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Formula 4 Foundations

Bearman won in Hockenheim in 2020

2020 saw the inevitable step into single-seater racing, where young talents like Bearman begin to understand the complexities of basic aerodynamics and car setup.

The Brit entered Germany's ADAC F4 championship and battled against the likes of Aston Martin's Jak Crawford, Red Bull's Tim Tramnitz, Alpine's Gabriele Mini, and fellow Ferrari Driver Academy star Dino Beganovic.

A solitary win in Hockenheim was the standout ADAC F4 moment, but a few cameo appearances in Italian F4 ended with a final-round victory at Vallelunga, paving the way for 2021.

Armed with a year of Formula 4 racing experience, Bearman launched two full-time campaigns in ADAC F4 and Italian F4 with Dutch outfit Van Amersfoort Racing to incredible success.

Some 17 top-step moments came over the year as Bearman strode to both titles, an unprecedented accomplishment, including a seven-race winning streak in Italian F4 that only ended with a technical disqualification.

You won't be surprised to learn Bearman had won that race before the DSQ and then bounced back to triumph at the following round en route to his title and a graduation to the F1 weekend.

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Under Ferrari's Eye

Ferrari took a shine to Bearman

2022 was a milestone in Bearman's career. His successes in 2021 caught the attention of the prestigious Scuderia Ferrari and their Driver Academy.

The Ferrari Driver Academy supports and develops young drivers with the potential to reach Formula One, and it has had Charles Leclerc, Jules Bianchi, Mick Schumacher, and Sergio Perez among its alumni.

An incredibly competitive Formula 3 grid had Bearman racing alongside second-season drivers Arthur Leclerc and Jak Crawford at the vice-champion team, PREMA.

A podium-scoring start was an encouraging beginning, especially with Bearman crossing the line first before a time penalty demoted him to P2, and it was clear the decision to jump to F3 rather than head to Formula Regional was correct.

Round 2 had Bearman leading the Feature Race at Imola before dropping back and suffering a last-lap incident that cost him valuable points, but his rookie pace was undeniable.

Four consecutive podium finishes in Feature Races followed later in the season, each bringing more points than a Sprint Race win, and Bearman entered the finale with a slim chance of taking the title.

It wasn't to be. Red flag chaos prevented the Brit from fighting for a win from P2 and an extra seven points... he'd finish 2023 seven points behind champion Victor Martins.

Despite the lack of experience compared to Leclerc and Crawford, Bearman bested both of his F3 teammates on his way to P3 in the championship, and a swift promotion to F2 followed.

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On the doorstep of F1

Remaining with PREMA, Bearman struggled with a rocky start to the season, somewhat 'helped' by eventual champion Theo Pourchaire's Saudi Arabian smash at Turn 1.

Nonetheless, Bearman shrugged off the early-season strife to write a story that became an F2 legend in Azerbaijan when he took pole position with his steering wheel pointing in the wrong direction after hitting the wall.

If that wasn't impressive enough, he followed that pole lap with the seldom-seen 'double': winning both Baku races, the Feature and reverse-grid Sprint.

The latter victory came after a P9 start and a last-gasp overtake on teammate Frederik Vesti in the Safety Car-ridden race.

Performances like that don't go unnoticed, and Ferrari handed their young hopeful a drive at Fiorano in October, driving the SF21, where he recorded over 400 km of F1 running.

That was perfect preparation for a Mexico City FP1 session with Haas last year, where Bearman was the quickest young driver, finishing P15 with a time faster than Fernando Alonso.

He eventually finished the 2023 F2 season in P6 as the second-highest rookie, and he stuck with PREMA for his sophomore season in the second tier.

As well as being an F1 point scorer, Bearman is a title favourite for the 2024 F2 championship and will appear in F1 again for six FP1 sessions over the year.

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