Oliver Bearman’s maiden FP1 outing in Mexico City left the Haas Formula 1 team gushing and he believes he has “what it takes” to race full-time in the top flight.

Taking over FP1 duties for Kevin Magnussen in Mexico, the Ferrari junior became the youngest Briton to ever participate in an F1 session aged 18 years, 5 months and 19 days.

Just two years ago, the Briton was performing double duty with Van Amersfoort Racing in both the ADAC and Italian Formula 4 Championships. In just his second year of car racing, Bearman stormed to both titles before making the jump to FIA Formula 3.

Racing with Prema, third in the F3 standings in his first and only season in the series secured an instant promotion to Formula 2, sitting sixth in the standings.

Bearman was one of five rookies to make a guest appearance in FP1 as half of the grid opted to fulfil one of their two mandatory rookie practice sessions this season

Following his rapid rise through the feeder series, the Ferrari junior was asked whether he truly believes he has what it takes to find his way onto the grid full-time.

“I believe I have what it takes. In my mind there is no doubt about that, but that’s not what you need to get to F1,” he asserted.

“There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. I have just got to keep focusing on myself. I need to do a good job in F2 next year and if that’s enough, that’s enough. If not, I don’t know what to say.”

Oliver Bearman (GBR) Haas VF-23 Test Driver.
27.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Practice Day.
– www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

There were no real targets set for the rookie other than to bring the car home safely in one piece. However, he went far beyond that and impressed his hosts with his pace, feedback and professionalism resulting in a faultless review from Haas Trackside Engineering Director Ayao Komatsu.

The 18-year-old completed 30 laps of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Friday, the highest lap count of all five guest rookies in the session.

Meanwhile, His best lap time of 1:21.313s saw him sixth-tenths faster than the second-fastest F2 driver Isack Hadjar, who piloted the AlphaTauri.

While the usual practice caveat of differing run plans remains pertinent, it didn’t take away from Bearman’s impressive.

Just a couple of weeks ago, he had been testing the Ferrari SF-21 at Fiorano in preparation for his first outing in contemporary F1 machinery.

“I mean obviously I tested the 2021 car a couple weeks back and that was peak grip, peak performance. With this altitude [Mexico City], especially to start with, we were also on an unknown tyre, the prototype, it was quite slippery out there. It felt like I was in F2 again so that was quite nice,” he explained.

“As the track got better and better I kind of just went with it…  You don’t realise how fast you’re going until you hit the brakes and then you’re like ‘Oh wait, I’m not going to hit that apex!’

“The visibility is really tough, so I was actually struggling, especially in the first laps to get my bearings. You have to kind of do it by feel rather than by sight so that was quite an interesting new thing to get used to.

“And that heavy braking, I wanted to get confident straight away and be strong. And I’d rather go over then slowly building up.”

Naturally, there were some slight procedural hiccups including over-slowing to 60kph for the pit-lane as opposed to 80kph requiring him to speed back up, and the need for a couple of reminders on his targets for lift-and-coast.

Oliver Bearman (GBR) Haas VF-23 Test Driver.
27.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Practice Day.
– www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

Bearman was able to swiftly address the slight missteps as he grew into the session, aided by feedback from Magnussen’s race engineer Mark Slade.

“I feel like [understanding the] braking came quite fast. I was pretty strong in sector one straight away. High speed the thing is you need to find the confidence and of course with a car that’s not mine I didn’t want to go too hard,” the four-time F2 winner explained.

“The thing is every time he [Race engineer Mark Slade] told me where to improve it was clear. I just had to try and get the right rhythm through sector two in the high-speed corners with the kerb usage.

“I only really did that on my last lap and if you look at my last lap it, wasn’t even that good. I knew what I needed to work on, it’s nice to have a bit of confirmation from the engineers.”

“I wanted to go to what I felt was the limit,” he added. “I was a bit weak in turn seven with performance on the hard tyre, so [when] I decided ‘I have confidence in the car – let’s see what it can do’.

“I was a bit out of shape out of seven and that whole sequence was in trouble so I had to abort that lap unfortunately. For sure with the soft that we have, the first lap is the fastest so that’s a bit unlucky.

“You just have to basically trust the car and I managed to get the trust quite early on. It was tough, but I felt like I got the most out of it. Just like I said, that fast lap left a little bit to be desired.”

While he may have been left disappointed with his final push lap in FP1, it is hard to disagree with Haas’ faultless evaluation of the talented junior.

With his upcoming test with the team in Abu Dhabi coinciding with the final round of the F2 championship, Mexico was really Bearman’s opportunity to have some fun with the VF-23.

One FP1 outing may have impressed the paddock and Haas in Mexico, but the reality is that nothing stands still in Motorsport. With under four years of car racing experience under his belt, there is no question that Bearman is deserving of the praise received.

The upcoming 2024 Formula 2 campaign will serve as the real proving ground for Bearman’s talent and status as a Ferrari protégé. But even that is complicated by the arrival of the championship’s next-generation chassis. Then, Bearman will need to stand out on a level playing field amongst the likes of Mercedes starlet Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

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