Oliver Bearman, 18, becomes Ferrari's youngest British driver in Formula 1

8 March 2024, 19:17 | Updated: 8 March 2024, 19:31

The teenager has been a member of the Ferrari driver academy since 2021.
The teenager has been a member of the Ferrari driver academy since 2021. Picture: Getty
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

The teenager's F1 debut in Saudi Arabia comes at unexpected circumstances, standing in for Carlos Sainz after he was diagnosed with appendicitis.

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Oliver, from Chelmsford, will be Britain's youngest driver to start an F1 race and the third youngest debutant behind Max Verstappen (17) and Lance Stroll (18).

The teenager has been a member of the Ferrari driver academy since 2021 and has driven in two practice sessions for the Haas team last year.

He is a competitive sportsman but has impressed onlookers with his steady, mature progress.

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Haas trackside engineering director Ayao Komatsu said that he "really could not fault" Oliver in his weekend debut in Mexico in October.

Oliver made his Formula 2 debut in 2023.
Oliver made his Formula 2 debut in 2023. Picture: Getty

That appearance made Oliver the youngest British driver to participate in a Grand Prix weekend.

He has successfully thwarted the opportunity for Lewis Hamilton, who will join the team in two years, to make history as the first British driver for Ferrari in Formula 1 since Eddie Irvine in 1999.

Many drivers aspire to enter F1, but being chosen is only possible for a few– Oliver Bearman is among them, with his track record marking the teenager out as 'a special one'.

Oliver made his Formula 2 debut in 2023.

He dominated the weekend at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and became the first-ever driver in the history of the category to top every practice session and win the feature race.

Oliver started karting 10 years ago, at the age of eight, taking after his father who is a former go-kart driver.

By 16, he was spotted by Ferrari and taken in as part of their young driver programme.

Much to the original disappointment of his mother, Oliver left his prestigious grammar school to chase his dream and ended up moving to Modena.

Since the move, people have said Oliver has lost the Essex accent.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Oliver said: "I spend a lot of time with Italians, and communicating with people whose first language is not English isn't easy, so I have changed my word order and ended up with this everywhere accent.

"When I moved to Modena it happened pretty quickly. It was like going to university two years early, but I have loved every moment so far.

"My mum was very pro-school and very pro-education, but we managed to convince her in the end.

"I miss my family and my dogs. I have an English bull terrier and a Boston terrier and they are very cute.

"That is the negative side. But the food in Italy is a big chunk above the English stuff, and the weather is better, too."

Oliver made his single-seater debut in 2020, winning both the Italian and German Formula 4 titles in 2021.

The Saudi Grand Prix takes place on Saturday, March 9. For UK fans, it will start at 5pm GMT..
The Saudi Grand Prix takes place on Saturday, March 9. For UK fans, it will start at 5pm GMT. Picture: Getty

In addition to those achievements, Oliver finished third in his debut season in Formula 3 in 2022 and sixth in F2 last year.

This year, Oliver has started his second season in the F2 championships - one of his favourites.

Fans are highly anticipating his battle with his team-mate at the Prema team, Mercedes junior Andrea Kim Antonelli, who has been dubbed the "Next Verstappen".

Speaking last year, Oliver knew all about the demands of F1, saying: “Once you join F1, you're going up against guys with a lot of races under their belts, and coming in as a rookie is a difficult job.”

He added: "It's something we've thought about and it will be really important that before I start an F1 campaign, I need to be really prepared."

The Saudi Grand Prix takes place on Saturday, March 9. For UK fans, it will start at 5pm GMT.

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