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Oliver Bearman

How a shock decision could favour Bearman's F1 drive search

Oliver Bearman made a strong case for being handed a 2025 Formula 1 drive when he made his debut at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last weekend.

To news overview © XPBimages

Putting yourself in the running for a Formula 1 drive is a hugely difficult task in the modern Formula 1 era when testing opportunities in up-to-date machinery are so few.

It places huge pressure on rookie drivers who have just one and a half days of pre-season testing to get to grips with their F1 challenger before being thrust into their maiden grand prix event.

Oliver Bearman faced an even taller task in Saudi Arabia last weekend as he had just one hour to prepare for his first qualifying and race event around one of the most difficult circuits on the calendar.

It would have been easy for the 18-year-old to hit a wall or falter under the pressure of the situation and fail to extract pace from the car.

Instead, Bearman starred by taking 11th in qualifying - missing out on a place in the top-10 shootout by 0.036s to Lewis Hamilton - and finishing seventh in the race, vaulting his prospects of securing a full-time seat in 2025.

Where could Bearman land?

Coming into this year, we knew F1’s silly season would ramp up with more than half of the current grid out of contract.

Throw in rookie hopefuls such as Bearman, or Liam Lawson who impressed at AlphaTauri last year, and the field is further clouded for those who make the decisions inside the teams.

Ferrari is not an option for Bearman as the Italian outfit has signed Lewis Hamilton to partner Charles Leclerc for the foreseeable future.

Losing the young Briton, however, is not an option for Ferrari. At 40 years of age [when he joins the Scuderia], Hamilton will likely only be around for two, maybe three seasons at best, before hanging up his helmet.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Slotting Bearman into a seat immediately to prepare him for a future drive at Ferrari should be the team's biggest priority on the driver front.

It is unrealistic to expect another top team such as Red Bull or Mercedes to move for him. Both have their driver academies, so why poach a potential rising star from one of their main rivals?

McLaren has its driver line-up locked in with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri; RB is almost certain to promote Lawson into a seat for next year, while Aston Martin will likely seek experience should Fernando Alonso depart. As for Stake, it is hard to see it wanting a rookie on its books ahead of Audi's entry into F1 in 2026.

It leaves Alpine, Williams and Haas as options for Bearman. As the latter has an engine deal in place with Ferrari, it is the most likely option.

A change in thinking at Haas

Following his debut in Saudi Arabia, Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu was full of praise for Bearman. However, the Japanese hinted he was not overly surprised by the performance after Haas fielded him in two FP1 sessions last year.

"Of course, we ran him in Mexico FP1 and Abu Dhabi, and straight away it was totally clear to me - and most of us - that he is something special,” Komatsu told media including RacingNews365.

"It's not just the speed, it's the total package, and he understands the objectives. He handled himself very well.

“Even during a run, he's able to absorb the information from the previous lap and then make minor adjustments to make the next step better. He just showed maturity straight away as if he's been doing it for some years.”

Haas fielded two rookies in 2021 during a year it struggled with an underdeveloped car. Nikita Mazepin was dropped before the 2022 season began after Russia invaded Ukraine before Mick Schumacher exited following his second campaign when he failed to impress former team principal Guenther Steiner.

Steiner highlighted last year that it was “risky business to take a young driver” and proclaimed that its experienced line-up of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg was chosen to offer direction amid a period of woe for Haas.

Steiner, however, is no longer at the helm of the team following a surprise announcement before the start of the new season that he would not continue in his role after being in charge since its inception in 2016.

Following a bleak year of competition in 2023, the opening two rounds of the current season suggest Haas’ race-pace misery has been eliminated and it can fight with the midfield pack.

Should one of Haas’ drivers be courted by a rival [how about the experience of Hulkenberg being viewed as valuable to German manufacturer Audi following a settling-in year with Stake], it presents the perfect opportunity for Bearman to slot into a vacant seat.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Komatsu’s decision

“He deserves a chance next year, I guess," Komatsu stated when asked about the impression that Bearman left on the F1 paddock.

"Penalty aside [in Saudi Arabia], Kevin did fantastic. Nico delivered as well. So how can I sit here and say, '[Bearman is] our driver for next year'?

"Based on performance, [it's] Nico and Kevin [for 2025].”

Realistically, Komatsu was not going to publicly embrace the possibility of signing Bearman with 22 races of the season remaining. Haas’ current line-up is no doubt a safe one, but its hand may be forced to look elsewhere if one of its drivers is poached or fails to perform as expected over the remainder of the year.

Haas will be keen to play things ‘safe’ to deliver an exit from its difficult run of campaigns.

But if Bearman’s Jeddah outing was only the starting point of what he can deliver in F1, perhaps signing the Formula 2 title hopeful can be seen as a far less risky option.

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