Why ‘misfortune’ would help Bearman secure a Haas F1 seat in 2025

After his surprising debut in place of Carlos Sainz, suffering from appendicitis, at Ferrari in Jeddah, Bearman finally begins the main challenge of his season in the higher categories of single-seaters.

Imola marks the first of six FP1 appearances with Haas that were planned in his contract as the team’s reserve driver for 2024, as well as his similar duties as a Ferrari junior.

In the first 60-minute session of this weekend, which follows Bearman’s 2023 free tests for the team in Mexico and Abu Dhabi, the 19-year-old finished 15th in Kevin Magnussen’s car. Mark Slade, Magnussen’s regular race engineer, later told him that the “lack of updates” he was receiving during the 60 minutes was because Haas thought he was “doing a good job “.

Speaking at Imola on Thursday, Haas team boss Ayao Komatsu described Bearman’s 2024 FP1 sessions as “a golden opportunity for us to work with him”.

“And then evaluate how he is, where he is, what his strengths and weaknesses are,” said Komatsu, who was enthusiastic about a driver he immediately bonded with in Mexico l ‘last year.

“See how we can develop it and also work together if we want to. So, yes, it’s a very good situation for a job interview.”

But after his 2023 free testing and late call-up to Ferrari went so well, the subtext of what Komatsu said next is intriguing.

“I’m not hoping for any bad luck on the car or anything, but at some point he’s going to have to face obstacles,” he continued.

Oliver Bearman, Haas F1 Team, adjusts his helmet in the garage

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“You know, some things didn’t go his way or I don’t know if it was a car problem or a yellow flag situation or a red flag situation or whatever. Then how he manages that, with a compromised situation, how he’s still going to be able to focus and behave in a way that gets the most out of it.”

Essentially, Haas wants to see how Bearman performs through all the challenges F1 drivers can face – glamorous, good, bad and ugly, on and off the track.

That’s why Haas arranged a full media appearance for Bearman before Thursday’s regular race. In this case it was Sauber-bound Hülkenberg, who arrived briefly surprised by the number of journalists packed into the Haas camper van.

When Bearman spoke, he drew attention with this: “I see it, of course, as my good fortune. But just because there’s an empty seat doesn’t mean you know I’m entitled to it.” .

“I still need to go out there and win through good performances in F2, but even more so for the six FPs I do, I need to perform well and make sure I’m ready to go into F1 next year.”

Bearman was impressive in other responses. On his F2 campaign, which was affected by his absence from the Jeddah races immediately after winning qualifying there, he hit back at suggestions he struggled.

“First of all,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve had any trouble finding rhythm so far this season. Bahrain is a bit of an exception. Even last year we really struggled. In Jeddah I was on pole and in Australia I was on the front row and then my engine blew up, so a few mitigating factors put us out of the race.”

Then he dismissed an awkward question about comparing the Ferrari and Haas 2024 cars, which, disconcertingly, seemed to overlook their common parts and the general closeness of the 2024 field.

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“You say it’s a different car, but at the end of qualifying these cars are separated by three tenths,” he replied coolly. “In the end, a different car, you know, there’s not much in it.

“I’m not sure about the characteristics, but after driving Haas last year, the characteristics are quite similar. And even on the simulator, I couldn’t notice many huge differences. Of course, this will be my first time on this vehicle track with F1, and I think that would be the biggest difference, not the car.

Overall, Bearman’s enthusiasm shines through. He made sure to enjoy his surprise debut by rewatching the broadcast of the Jeddah race in the wee hours after that event and still replays it “when I’m bored.”

As with any job, the shine will wear off if Bearman devotes himself to the repetitive motions of F1 full-time. But achieving this is his goal and dream right now. From Haas’ perspective, with Hülkenberg gone, their preference would be to elevate Bearman given his position as a Ferrari driver.

Komatsu also said he placed “more importance on what we do with him” than what he would achieve in F2. So it would be wise for Bearman to make his Haas outings a priority. But it still won’t be easy.

In 2017, Charles Leclerc, then another Ferrari Academy driver, told this writer how his difficulties transitioning from the Haas F1 machine to his then GP3 car had compromised his ultimately successful attempt to win the third-tier category as soon as the first attempt.

With a year behind in F2, he deliberately requested that his F1 program take place in races outside of F2 events or in dedicated tests.

Indeed, Bearman’s Imola F2 weekend got off to an embarrassing start given the scrutiny he’s facing this weekend – with particular attention from Netflix. Drive to survive crew – as he crashed his Prema Racing machine at the start of F2 testing. He lost control of the rear of what already looked like a very loose car in the second part of the Tamburello chicane in the closing stages of the session and hit the outside barriers head-on, shattering the front suspension and causing drop its front wing.

But while Bearman’s challenge to impress Haas and climb back up the F2 standings comes true, it’s not just the possibility of him replacing Hülkenberg that is being considered.

Oliver Bearman, Haas F1 Team, Damon Hill, Sky F1

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Hulkenberg, who said Bearman has “definitely good potential,” also pointed out “that it’s not necessarily mine, right?” when asked if Bearman was close to replacing him.

“There are two,” he added.

Magnussen’s contract also expires at the end of 2024 and he will be on the verge of a racing ban until the end of the season. While Magnussen has pledged to drive differently to “be careful not to be banned from racing”, Bearman says he is “ready” in the event of another surprise call-up.

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“I showed in Saudi Arabia that I was ready,” Bearman said. “If I get a call, I’ll happily step in. Of course, that’s not my… that’s never the way you want to run a race if something like that happens.

“But if that’s the case, if that happens, then I’ll be happy to answer it.”

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