Who is Oliver Bearman, Sainz's replacement at Ferrari in Saudi Arabia?

Who is Oliver Bearman, Sainz's replacement at Ferrari in Saudi Arabia?

8 March - 11:45 Last update: 13-10-2023 11:35

Carlos Sainz will be replaced by Oliver Bearman during the Grand Prix weekend in Saudi Arabia. Who is this young Brit, and why is everyone so positive about him? GPblog.com spoke to Bearman at the Dutch Grand Prix. In that interview, it became clear who Bearman is. You can read the interview here.

Born on 8 May 2005 in Chelmsford, young Oliver Bearman has been destined to race. Formula 1 was on the TV at home every Sunday, and the young Brit could be seen trackside regularly. Not at the big events but at the sports car races his grandfather, father and uncle competed in.

Why Bearman started racing

By his own admission, Bearman's relatives were not great talents, but racing is a passion for the family. "Racing is basically my identity. I started karting when I was six years old, but the interest was always there. I was a huge fan of cars. I just loved everything on the road, and I watched Formula 1. Before I'd even started karting, I watched my father race in sports cars around the UK. Nothing serious. But that gave me the buzz. It's the smell of the tyres and the fuel."

The hobby grew into an ambition to take up karting seriously. Bearman started karting at six but got serious around the age of 10. That's unsurprising, as Bearman won a lot, although he mainly stayed karting in England. A European Championship or World Championship is not on Bearman's record.

In karting, Bearman leaned largely on his father. "My father was very instrumental in getting me into this job and hobby. He guided me, especially in the early years. I'm very fortunate that he had an understanding of racing to the point where he could coach me in the first couple of years. He guided me along in those years and helped me very much. Until the point where I probably surpassed him in knowledge."

Bearman impresses Ferrari

That tipping point takes place in 2020. Bearman was still karting then but also switched to Formula 4 for the first time. From karting championships in England to the prestigious Formula 4 championships in Germany (ADAC) and Italy. The family looked for help to progress to bigger championships.

That help was found with Chris, who is a manager helping Bearman. Chris taught Bearman about the work ethic needed to be successful at the very highest level. "The step from karting to cars changes it from fun to serious. That also needs to be reflected in your off-track life and work ethic. He [Chris] was a professional tennis player when he was younger. It's a very different sport, but despite that, the work ethic needs to be the same."

Working hard is the message Bearman takes away from Chris. It sounds simple, but 'talent alone won't get you there'. Besides working on his life alongside the job, his manager also takes care of the peripheral issues. Contracts no longer go through his father but through Chris. That way, there is also less stress for his father, who can enjoy his son's achievements more.

Handling this whole process so professionally does suit Bearman. When asked if he could describe himself as a human being, he said the following: "Wow, that's a tough question. I would say I'm very dedicated. I always give my best in everything. I would say I'm quite dedicated to my sport. In general, I know what it takes to make it a profession."

How Bearman wants to get into Formula 1

That dedication can be seen in his choice of manager and his steep learning curve in different classes. Bearman wants to become a professional. F1 of course, is the main goal, but it shouldn't end there, according to Bearman. "It's just the beginning. If all this work goes to plan, then you get into F1, and then it really starts. That is also a good motivation. I've got a lot of time. I'm still 18. I'm not in a rush."

Yet you would suspect otherwise if you look at Bearman's CV. From British karting championships, he moved straight to Europe's best and most prestigious Formula 4 championships. Bearman's strong performance in his first year, highlighted by winning a race in both championships, drew Ferrari's attention. Yet it also shows how unprepared Bearman was for his first races.

"I remember my first-ever race. I'd done about two practice starts, and I stalled off the line from the front row. That was embarrassing. I wouldn't have changed it looking back. For me, it's better to jump straight in at the deep end and sink or swim."

After a seventh place in the ADAC championship and a tenth place in the Italian F4 championship, Bearman decided to drive in those classes for another year. In that second year, the Brit impressed. With a year of experience behind him, he won 17 races across both classes and won both Championships.

The fact that Bearman took championships with so little preparation and experience was also noticed by Formula 1 teams. Bearman went for an interview with Ferrari and was offered a test at Fiorano. A test with several drivers: Bearman turned out to be the fastest and was the one to be included in Ferrari's junior programme by mid-2021.

After those championships, Ferrari actually wanted Bearman to drive in regional classes, the usual step after F4 titles. However, Bearman didn't like that step and pressed on. "I wanted to go straight to F3 and not go to regional and waste a year. I managed to convince everyone and go for it. Again, I'm really happy we made that move because I saved a year."

Bearman impresses as a rookie in Formula 3 and Formula 2

Bearman entered F3 as a 17-year-old. Again, it's a class where you come up against much more experienced drivers, but Bearman impressed again. Victor Martins won the championship, but Bearman was only seven points short of third place. You can understand why Ferrari sees something in the young Briton when Bearman only really got going halfway through the season.

Bearman made a conscious decision to stay in Formula 4 for another year after a season without titles, but this time, the Brit made the move straight to Formula 2. Bearman continued to work for Prema alongside the experienced Frederik Vesti. Like Theo Pourchaire, Bearman saw a quick move to F2 as an important step. Not sticking around for a title, but taking another leap and seeing if you can be successful there too.

"I think F3 was just a season of improving. I think the last three rounds, I was at my best. I was always fighting at the front, except Zandvoort. I reached a really good level at the end of that season. As a group, we came to the conclusion that there wasn't really a whole lot more to learn."

"It's a big step. One that I probably underestimated. In terms of not only the strategy, the tyre compounds, the races which are longer, probably more tyre degradation, but also the fact that the car is simply more difficult to drive on the limit. I find it a bit more difficult in F2."

So, there is a lot to learn for Bearman, but it hardly shows in the results. Drivers who have been in F2 for two or more seasons are in the top four, and in fifth place above Bearman is a familiar name: Victor Martins. The gap was seven points in the F3 championship at the end of 2022. Now, the two are vying for the title of best rookie in F2. Martins is one point ahead, with one consideration: Martins is four years older than Bearman.

Bearman's future

All in all, Bearman remains an extremely young driver who has so far shown in every step up that he can compete for wins again. The Prema driver has already won four races this year, including three feature races. In Baku and Barcelona, Bearman dominated with pole and a win. In Baku, he even added a sprint victory to the list.

"I've learned a lot about myself mentally. How I operate in certain situations and how I respond, which has been really insightful. In F2, we can see five or six drivers that can be fighting for pole position and five or six drivers that can win the race. We're not really separated by much in terms of ability. There's a lot more to it. That's kind of the thing that I have come to understand this year. The mental game is very important."

With one race weekend to go in Abu Dhabi, Bearman can still finish second in the championship at best. However, the gap between number two and teammate Vesti is 36 points, so that will be a difficult task. However, Ayumu Iwasa, Jack Doohan and Martins are within reach of Bearman.

Bearman describes himself as a driver who gets up to speed quickly and learns quickly. The latter does stand out on his CV. "I feel like I cope well with pressure. That's obviously important. When it comes to that final quali lap, when the pressure's on, I feel like I can usually do a good lap."

Bearman also knows what he wants to work on: "Just controlling my emotions and not letting it affect my driving. Because with my driving, I don't really need to change much. We don't see a trend of issues I'm having where I'm losing time or anything like that. But I feel like in certain situations, I'm still not reacting how I want to in the heat of the moment. That's what I'm trying to work on."

Although F2 has been idle since the Monza Grand Prix, Bearman is not sitting still. The young driver is part of the Ferrari Academy and has access to an F2 simulator at Ferrari. He also works hard in the gym to get even fitter and has a trainer at all his races.

Plans for the future are unclear at the moment. A logical continuation would be another year in F2. Vesti is still chasing the title but will leave the step-up class after this season. Another Mercedes junior may take his place: Andrea Kimi Antonelli. Also a young driver with lots of potential and, thus, an ideal test for Bearman.

Bearman himself is now mainly looking at what he can do to take another step in his development next year. "My goal is to go to F1. I'm not in a rush. I'm young. We just have to wait and see. My goal in the meantime is to perform as well as I can on track. That makes my life easier when I come to negotiating anything. That's what I'm focusing on. F2 and driving as fast as I can."

Bearman's dream is now coming true as he will make his debut in Formula 1. In Saudi Arabia, he will replace Carlos Sainz from FP3 onwards. He gives up his pole position in the F2 feature race.