The Haas Formula 1 team’s Trackside Engineering Director Ayao Komatsu was unable to fault Oliver Bearman after his FP1 debut in Mexico City with the team.

The 18-year-old Ferrari Driver Academy member has made a name as a breakthrough talent in his rookie Formula 2 campaign this season, notching up four victories.

Bearman was still racing karts in 2020, before making the step to the ADAC and Italian Formula 4 championships the same year. He won both titles the following year.

In 2022, third in his rookie Formula 3 campaign with Prema earned a graduation to F2 for 2023 where he currently holds sixth in the standings with one round remaining.

Now just under four years from his transition from karting to cars, Bearman’s maiden appearance during an F1 session marks another major milestone in his career.

F1 regulations require each team to field a rookie, a driver who has started no more than two grands prix, in two FP1 sessions across the season – once per car.

Stepping in for Kevin Magnussen, Bearman placed 15th in the session, only two-tenths adrift of the experienced Nico Hulkenberg in the sister VF-23 car.

When asked to sum up his first impressions of the rookie, Komatsu was full of praise for the youngster.

 I don’t think you can fault him: he’s done really well. But all the way from the initial preparation, he’s been very professional, very, very easy to deal with in every single process, I have nothing to complain [about],” Komatsu commended.

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.
–, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

Bearman completed 30 laps of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the most of any of the five rookies that made guest appearances during the session.

“And then today,” Komatsu continued. “With the calmness, procedures he understood, he understood the objectives of every single run.

“He didn’t put a foot wrong, really. I mean, he didn’t maximise the Soft tyre. That lap-time difference you talked about, Nico’s lap wasn’t great either so you can’t read too much into it, but in terms of his feedback, it was really good, engagement with his engineers, really, really good job. Really impressed.”

On his debut, a best lap time of 1:21.313s saw him end his outing a respectable 1.5s off the benchmark set by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

“Once he was in the car and out on the track, he understood all the objectives, what we needed to achieve on each run, each lap and how to  use the tyres,” added the engineer, who joined Haas ahead of its inaugural season in 2016.

“The surprise is how well he managed everything, really. Honestly, I can’t pick a moment from all the way through that preparation where something was frustrating or difficult, including his management.

“It’s been a really smooth process. It’s been a pleasure to work with him and his management team.

“I don’t think you can expect much better. And then yeah, certainly, better than my expectations were. Not that my expectation was low. But that was so professional and he didn’t put a foot wrong.

“The communication and the feedback were really good as well. So really, I’ve got nothing to complain about. It was really impressive FP1.”

Komatsu was asked to compare Bearman’s performance with that of current Ferrari ace Charles Leclerc, who participated in four FP1 sessions with the American outfit in 2016.

“I think it’s a bit difficult to make a direct comparison, really,” Komatsu posited. “But honestly, if I just think about today, he’s done so well. Really, really, well.

“I really can’t fault him today. So, we got another session planned with him in Abu Dhabi. So really looking forward to that. And then yeah, hopefully more sessions next year as well. So it’s very promising.”

Speaking after the session, Bearman was pleased with his efforts but he is acutely aware that there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“I mean my first goal was to just have a clean session and we did that which is the main thing so I’m really happy to have just delivered a clean session to start with,” the Briton said.

“I got up to speed quite fast I felt, I had a really good confidence in the car. More or less I’m happy. There’s always a few things, it was my first time doing everything. My first time on the Soft tyre, my first long runs… I would do better the second time, but for a first time, I was very happy.

“I spoke with them and they just said good job. We knew what the main goal was, pretty much just bring the car home. [But to do that and end] in a pretty decent position comparing to the guys around us is an added bonus.

“I think the main thing was that we built up very cleanly and had a clean session and not many big mistakes.”

The Ferrari prospect will again perform FP1 duties with Haas in Abu Dhabi – the same weekend as the Formula 2 finale.

Asked what his plans are until then, he responded: “Set a timer! It’s a long way away. It’s a bit unfortunate, it [FP1] was over so fast. Now I’m just going to be back on the sim, back preparing for Abu Dhabi.

“Obviously my main focus is F2 and this is just an added bonus on top to do the FP1s so the same preparation as I did for this race.”

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