Formula One: Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. out of Saudi GP with appendicitis; Oliver Bearman steps up at age 18

AP , Friday 8 Mar 2024

Ferrari has a new British driver, and it isn't Lewis Hamilton.

Oliver Bearman
British Ferrari driver Oliver Bearman prepares at pits ahead the third practice session ahead of the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, March 8, 2024. Photo: AP


Carlos Sainz Jr. was ruled out of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with appendicitis that required surgery on Friday and Ferrari handed 18-year-old Oliver Bearman his Formula 1 debut hours before qualifying.

“Carlos is out of surgery. Everything went well and he is now resting at the hospital. We’re sending him our full support for a quick recovery,” Ferrari said Friday.

The team has promoted Bearman, its British reserve driver who usually competes in Formula 2, for the rest of the race weekend starting with Friday's third practice session.

Bearman was 10th-fastest in that session and didn't look out of place in F1. He focused on gaining experience with longer race simulation runs rather than single-lap pace. Bearman managed 22 laps, more than any other driver, in a session which was interrupted when Zhou Guanyu spun his Sauber into the barriers.

Bearman is set to become the third-youngest driver to start an F1 race, behind only Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll, who were 17 and 18, respectively, when they made their debuts.

Starting Saturday's Grand Prix would make Bearman the youngest driver to race for Ferrari, breaking a record set in 1961 by Ricardo Rodríguez of Mexico, who was 19 when he took part in the Italian Grand Prix.

Ferrari will have its first full-time British F1 driver this century when seven-time champion Hamilton replaces Sainz at the team for the 2025 season.

Bearman previously drove two practice sessions in Mexico and Abu Dhabi last year as a test driver for the Haas team. He had qualified on pole position in F2 this weekend but will take no further part in that event.

The difference in speed between the two series was made clear when defending F1 champion Max Verstappen went fastest in practice Friday with a lap time which was nearly 14 seconds faster than Bearman's lap for F2 pole position. Bearman's fastest practice time was 0.894 seconds off Verstappen.

Sainz drove in both of Thursday's practice sessions in Saudi Arabia, having the sixth and seventh-fastest times, but said he felt unwell and that it was affecting his driving.

“Obviously, a very difficult day after feeling sick, the last 24 hours have been tough and difficult for me,” Sainz said Thursday. “Today is was all about trying to get myself on track and learn as much as possible from the car without pushing too much the limits as I was still a bit on the not-ideal side.”

Sainz's next opportunity to return to F1 is at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 24.

“Get well soon,” Williams driver Alex Albon wrote to Sainz on X, formerly Twitter. “I know a good surgeon if you need."

Albon missed the Italian Grand Prix in 2022 with appendicitis, giving Nyck de Vries an F1 debut as his replacement, but returned at the next race in Singapore.

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