Oliver Bearman brought crashing back down to earth on F2 return | F1 | Sport

Oliver Bearman was provided with a reality check in Melbourne on Friday as he ended the Formula Two qualifying session down in P16, while his team-mate Kimi Antonelli finished in P2.

The 18-year-old was called up to make his F1 debut at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last time out, scoring points on debut as he deputised for Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz.

Bearman’s performance in Jeddah turned the heads of many members of the paddock and significantly strengthened his chances of securing a full-time F1 drive in 2025. However, he will need to back up that showing with a strong F2 campaign if he is to seal the deal.

This could prove a tough task. Bearman came into the season as a title favourite, but after missing the round in Saudi Arabia, he is rooted to the bottom of the standings with no points to his name, while championship leader Zane Maloney has 47.

The task has been made even more difficult following an underwhelming qualifying showing on Friday. The Brit was about to cross the line to improve his time on his penultimate run, but a red flag forced him to abort the lap after the final corner.

Then, on his final lap, the Ferrari-backed starlet failed to improve, while PREMA Racing team-mate and Mercedes junior driver Antonelli surged up to second, behind polesitter Dennis Hauger.

Bearman was warned about this by Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, with whom he enjoyed an intense battle during the Saudi Arabian GP two weeks ago.

“I think he’s got a big job on his hands in F2 first of all, because otherwise if he’s not doing well there this Jeddah race is going to be forgotten in two days,” Hulkenberg explained. “You know how this business works. So I think quite a bit of pressure on him there to deliver now in F2, actually.”

With Sainz recovering well enough to compete in the first two practice sessions, Bearman’s F1 running looks to be over for the time being, although the Brit will be back in action for Haas later in the year.

The 18-year-old is scheduled to take part in six FP1 sessions throughout the 2024 campaign with team principal Ayao Komatsu viewing Bearman as their prime target heading into this summer’s driver market ‘silly season’.

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