The emergence of Britain’s next Formula 1 phenomenon

Oliver Bearman: The Rise of Britain’s Next Formula 1 Star

Ollie Bearman caught the public’s eye by winning both the German and Italian Formula 4 championships in 2021.

The teenager from Chelmsford had already achieved success in karting and won races in his first car-racing season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

banner

Winning these two challenging championships with Van Amersfoort Racing put him in the spotlight.

Bearman’s family had a history in club racing, and he originally planned to combine karting with F4 in 2020 since he wasn’t 15 until May.

However, the delayed season start due to COVID allowed him to participate in all F4 rounds, laying the groundwork for his exceptional 2021 season.

At 16, Bearman demonstrated his talent by securing a victory and three second places in a few BRDC F3 (now GB3) races with Fortec Motorsports that same season.

He capped off an outstanding year by being named a finalist for the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award and joining the Ferrari Driver Academy.

After just two seasons in single-seaters, Bearman moved to Maranello, where he trained and participated in sim sessions. He also joined the British Racing Drivers’ Club SuperStars programme as his career gained momentum.

While some drivers transition from F4 to GB3 or Formula Regional European, Bearman, after winning 18 races across three series in 2021, jumped straight into F3.

This move involved going from a car with 160bhp to one with 380bhp, along with a significant increase in downforce.

“To make the jump from winning the Italian and German F4 titles is something that can’t be underestimated,” Bearman said in 2022. “It’s a big step with a lot of new things that I needed to do.”

Despite the leap, Bearman impressed on his debut with top team Prema Racing in Bahrain, winning the first race before losing due to a track-limits penalty. Although he didn’t score points at Imola, Bearman soon became a regular contender.

A series of five podiums in seven races, highlighted by a win in the Spa sprint race, put him in title contention.

In a chaotic Monza finale, Bearman rose from sixth to second and was challenging leader Zane Maloney when the red flags flew, resulting in him finishing third in the standings, just seven points behind champion Victor Martins of the Alpine Academy.

Nevertheless, Bearman outperformed his second-year F3 teammates, Jak Crawford and Arthur Leclerc, the brother of Ferrari star Charles. “He surpassed expectations on what is traditionally a tricky step up the ladder,” Motorsport.com noted in their season review.

banner

For the second year in a row, Bearman’s performances earned him a nomination for the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award. He impressed once again, narrowly losing to current F3 points leader and Williams Driver Academy star Luke Browning.

Bearman’s F3 success led to a promotion to F2 ahead of schedule, remaining with Prema to partner Frederik Vesti.

Bearman’s near-win of the F3 title as a rookie compelled Ferrari to move him to F2, as staying in F3 another season wouldn’t offer much benefit. This presented another tough challenge.

Rising Danish star Vesti had won the 2019 Formula Regional European title before Bearman even entered single-seaters and was already an F2 race winner.

Vesti competed with Theo Pourchaire for the title, but Bearman quickly adapted to the 620bhp Dallara.

The highlight of his season was a double victory at the high-speed Baku street circuit, and he added two more wins in feature races at Barcelona and Monza, finishing sixth in the standings.

ART driver Martins, with one win to Bearman’s four, was the only rookie to finish ahead of him, taking fifth place.

Such a strong debut season often serves as a springboard for a title push in the second year, but two factors have worked against Bearman this season.

First, the new Dallara F2 2024 machine, which single-seater powerhouse Prema has struggled to consistently optimize.

Bearman and Mercedes protégé Andrea Kimi Antonelli have only occasionally scored points. Bearman’s peaks, including a victory in the Red Bull Ring sprint race, have arguably been higher, but his Italian teammate is currently ahead in the championship.

The second, more positive complication is Bearman’s F1 commitments. He had already impressed Haas with his free practice and young driver test sessions when he received a surprise call-up for Ferrari at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in March.

On Thursday, March 7, Bearman took F2 pole and headed to the Jeddah circuit the next day, expecting to kick-start his championship challenge.

However, Carlos Sainz’s need for appendicitis surgery meant Bearman found himself driving a Ferrari SF-24 in FP3 on a circuit where F1 cars lap at over 150 mph.

Bearman finished 10th in that session, 0.698 seconds behind team leader Charles Leclerc. He narrowly missed Q3 by just 0.036s, closing the gap to Leclerc to 0.53s.

In the GP, a combination of strategy and overtaking lifted Bearman from 11th to seventh, where he had to defend against Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton, who hadn’t stopped under the early safety car and lost out as a result. Bearman kept his composure to hold on to seventh, while Leclerc finished third behind a Red Bull 1-2.

banner

“The car was flying today, so that is obviously a big bonus,” said Bearman. “But I think we executed a clean race, no mistakes, and that is exactly what we were looking for. I think I did a decent job.”

Others were more enthusiastic. Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur called it a “mega weekend” from Bearman, while Leclerc said, “it’s a matter of time before we see him permanently in F1.” Motorsport.com described it as a “heroic effort after being dropped in at the deep end,” giving him a 10/10 rating.

Subsequent FP1 sessions for Haas at Imola and Barcelona have added to Bearman’s F1 momentum, despite his challenging F2 campaign. Bearman himself has admitted that the season has been one of “two halves,” but securing a Haas race seat for 2025 would indicate he has mastered the most important aspect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *