Why Bearman reminds former F1 driver of Verstappen

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Rising F1 star Oliver Bearman has “all the ingredients” to succeed in the sport, similar to three-time champion Max Verstappen.

That is the verdict of former F1 driver Johnny Herbert after witnessing the 18-year-old deliver on his short-notice debut over the recent Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend.

After Carlos Sainz was diagnosed with appendicitis, Bearman had just two hours to prepare for the final practice session and get up to speed with the Ferrari SF24 ahead of qualifying around the self-proclaimed ‘fastest street track in the world’, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Bearman, who had qualified on pole position for the F2 feature race the day before, missed out on a place in the top-10 shoot-out by 0.036s to Lewis Hamilton. Starting from 11th on the grid, he delivered a composed drive to seventh in the race.

Speaking in an interview with RacingNews365, Herbert, who competed in 160 grands prix and was a former Sky Sports F1 pundit for many years, said: “He has shown in the junior categories that he’s got something about him.

“He had some great races last year in his debut F2 season, then proved himself again by getting the pole position (in F2 in Saudi Arabia), and then he quite easily jumped into a Formula 1 car with literally an hour’s FP3 ahead of qualifying.

“He had a car that was capable of being on the podium, but what was lovely is that you saw him joking with his engineer and mechanics before the race. He was very relaxed, which is a very important part.

“A lot of young drivers get very, very tense on their debut, but he had the ability to take all those expectations on his shoulders from himself, from within the team, his family, and with it being Ferrari, the most high-pressured seat in Formula 1 where expectations are always very high on the drivers, and almost brush them away.

“The most nervous person in the Bearman family was his dad. He looked really nervous, which you would expect.

“In the race, he was very good and very aware of not getting himself into trouble. At one stage he raced Esteban Ocon who, as we know is very tough and very good at getting his elbows out. He had a couple of opportunities, went for them, but realised when it was not going to work out, he backed out. He played the game very smartly.”

That was one of the many elements of Bearman that Herbert claims he saw in Verstappen when the Dutchman first competed in F1 with Toro Rosso at the age of 17.

“When he got in the car the maturity started to come out,” said Herbert. “I know Fred (Vasseur, Ferrari team principal) said ‘He’s good, but he’s still got a lot of things to learn’, but I thought that was classic Fred trying to calm everybody down, but I don’t think we should calm down.

“It’s now about giving him that chance to be in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car in the future, which he absolutely should be, a bit like Liam Lawson. He should be in a Formula 1 car as well.

“But I think it’s lovely for someone so young, like Max when he came in, who seems to have all the ingredients – speed, a good brain where he doesn’t get himself into trouble, being able to absorb the pressure, taking that pressure away from himself, and then being able to deliver on the track as well.

“So there are a lot of very positive ingredients which is exciting, very exciting.”

An area where Herbert feels Bearman does differ from Verstappen is that he feels the young Briton “is more controlled compared to the early days of Max”.

Herbert added: “He was all elbows out, and I totally understand that. It was part of an intimidation role he was trying to play.

“I remember years ago when everybody used to say that about Ayrton (Senna), that when you looked in your mirrors and you saw his yellow helmet, drivers would move out of the way.

“Max did the same thing, and he still plays that game now. Lewis also does it but in a very different way. You don’t see it as much as you do with Max.

“Ollie is probably more like Lewis on that side and is a lot more capable of being able to intimidate but in a racy way. Max is the same, but it’s just a different way. He’s not aggressive, he’s just calculated, very calculated.”

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