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Ferrari teen stand-in Oliver Bearman scores F1 points on dream debut at age 18

Take a bow, Oliver Bearman.

Max Verstappen took the win at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Saturday but it was the 18-year-old Bearman who stole the show with seventh place for Ferrari, one day after he was given an unexpected debut.

“The car was mega today, so thank you. I really enjoyed it. It was so much fun out there,” the British driver told Ferrari over the radio after crossing the finish line to earn six points.

Bearman arrived in Jeddah expecting to race in Formula 2 and had qualified on pole in the junior series — and missed the first two F1 practices — before Ferrari told him Friday morning that he’d be replacing Carlos Sainz Jr. The Spanish driver was diagnosed with appendicitis and needed an operation the same day.

With his father David watching on from the garage alongside Ferrari executive chairman John Elkann, Bearman’s comparative lack of experience didn’t show Saturday as he started 11th and worked his way into the points by overtaking Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hulkenberg.

“Mate, he’s so slow,” Bearman complained to Ferrari over the radio before passing Hulkenberg, an experienced driver for Haas who first raced in F1 in 2010. On worn tires in the final laps, Bearman held on to keep Lando Norris and seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton behind him.

“He’s been incredible,” Bearman’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc said. “Seventh in your first race in Formula 1, having done only (third practice), all in a new car is just hugely impressive. I’m sure he’s extremely proud. Everybody has noticed how talented he is. I guess it’s just a matter of time before he comes here (to) Formula 1.”

Bearman became the third-youngest driver to start an F1 race — behind only Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll, who were 17 and 18, respectively, when they made their debuts — and the youngest ever for Ferrari. The storied Italian team last gave a rookie driver an F1 debut 52 years ago.

The track in Jeddah is high-speed, narrow and flanked by concrete walls each side — a tough challenge for any F1 driver, not to mention a rookie.

Bearman had a little F1 experience from two practice sessions with Haas last year, but F1 cars are much faster than in F2 — the difference in pole position times was nearly 15 seconds — and F1 races are held over a longer distance.

Sainz, who wrote on social media Friday he was “feeling much better” after his operation, was at the track in Jeddah to show support for Bearman.

Sainz has two weeks to recover before the next race in Australia on March 24 and Ferrari has already confirmed Hamilton is joining Leclerc next year, so for now Bearman is likely to head back to F2.


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