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Ollie Bearman’s dream debut and another Red Bull front row at F1 Saudi Arabian GP

Think back to what you were doing when you were just 18 years old.

It was probably a little different than what Ollie Bearman did on Saturday night in the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Just over 24 hours after learning he would be making his F1 debut due to the appendectomy that Carlos Sainz Jr. needed due to his appendicitis, Bearman was not only starting in P11 but early in his first F1 race, he was radioing into his team some thoughts on the car in front of him:

“Mate he’s so slow,” said Bearman about the Haas of Nico Hülkenberg in front of him.

Bearman eventually passed Hülkenberg, getting himself on Lap 20 thanks to a crafty move to the inside while using DRS. That move got him into P9, and with a pair of drivers in front of him still needing to pit, even more points were on offer for the 18-year-old driver.

With ten laps to go, Bearman was running in P7, with both Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton behind him, each driver having just bolted on a fresh set of soft tires. Could the young driver manage to hold off the two more-experienced drivers?

With ten laps to go, he held a five-second advantage over Norris, who had Hamilton just a second behind him. The two looked to be catching the Ferrari driver, gaining a bit of time each lap.

“At this pace, will Norris catch us or not,” asked Bearman.

The team told him that Norris was likely in striking distance, but as Bearman pushed over the closing laps, he maintained a solid gap over both Norris and Hamilton, despite the two drivers on fresh sets of soft tires while Bearman was on an old set of hards.

With five laps to go, Bearman was just over three seconds ahead of Norris, but a potential battle between Norris and Hamilton for P8 was shaping up behind him. With Hamilton within DRS range of Norris, Ferrari told Bearman that he could hold on to P7.

“We can do it,” was the message from the pit wall.

The fight between Hamilton and Norris began at the end of Lap 46, coming when Norris was around 2.9 seconds behind Bearman. As his fellow countrymen engaged Bearman — the third-youngest driver in F1 history behind Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll — looked to finish his F1 race in P7.

Meanwhile, his father in the garage was looking on, worried like the rest of us:

Ultimately, Bearman held on, crossing the line just outside of DRS range ahead of Norris.

A tremendous result for Bearman, who did his personal best lap on Lap 49.

“This guy is something special,” said Jolyon Palmer up in the commentary box on F1TV. ”A dream debut,” described Alex Jacques alongside Palmer.

A dream debut that makes Bearman one of our winners from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Here are the results from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as well as some more winners and losers:

Winners – Red Bull

The tumultuous times at Red Bull, off the track, have been well-documented.

But they have been perfect on the track.

After locking out the front row in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Red Bull did it again, with Max Verstappen winning his ninth-straight race dating back to last season, and teammate Sergio Pérez finishing behind him in P2.

“We definitely made some progress,” said Pérez to David Coulthard after the race. “It was tricky at times, especially at the beginning … I think overall, it’s a great day for the team.”

For Verstappen, who became the youngest driver in F1 history to reach 100 podiums, it was a perfect ending to a great week of racing.

“I think overall it was a fantastic weekend for the whole team,” said Verstappen. “We had good pace all around … overall very very good.”

And with a pair of one-two finishes on the season, Red Bull remains perfect.

On the track, that is.

Winner – Carlos Sainz Jr.

Carlos Sainz Jr. was unable to race in Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as appendicitis — and a subsequent appendectomy — saw him in a hospital as the weekend began.

But that did not stop him from becoming one of this weekend’s winners, even if it came from a hospital bed.

Following his surgery on Friday, Sainz posted an incredible message on social media. After calling it a “smooth operation,” a nod to his nickname as the Smooth Operator, Sainz then thanked the doctors who treated him, and praised both Ollie Bearman, who stepped into his place, and teammate Charles Leclerc:

But he was not done. Because on Saturday ahead of the race, the Ferrari driver shared this photo with his father, Carlos Sainz Sr., by his side:

After noting that the Sainz family is now 2-0 against appendicitis, the driver and his father recreate a photograph taken when the elder Sainz had his own appendectomy, with his father by his bedside.

Absolutely perfect content, 10/10, no notes.

But Sainz was not done, because he soon left the hospital bed behind, making it to the track to support Bearman and Leclerc in the Saudi Arabian GP:

Fantastic to see.

Of course in the coming days the discussion will turn to when Sainz can get back into the cockpit, but for the moment let’s just appreciate how he has handled this situation — and frankly this season — with humor and grace, and also appreciate the medical advances that have made these moments possible.

Loser – Lance Stroll

On Lap 7, the narrow walls of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit claimed their first victim.

Lance Stroll, fighting in P9 at the back of the points, came too close to the inside wall and clipped it with his left front, which saw him careen off the track and into the barrier at Turn 22. The hard collision ended his day, but thankfully Stroll immediately reported that he was ok, and walked away from his damaged AMR24 under his own power:

The moment immediately brought to mind comments from Logan Sargeant when we spoke on Wednesday ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Speaking about how difficult it is to just finish a solid lap in an F1 car while keeping it within track limits, Sargeant had this to say:

Especially when you’re on the, you know, the back end of that [lap], trying to make it through Q1 and you’re always on the cusp. Imagine, you know, leaving a bit of time on the table can shuffle you down two or three positions if you’re too safe and then when you add the tires overheating through the lap, the wind gusting and changing throughout the lap. Even just having a slight slipstream from the car had completely changes the corner. You know, I think so much more goes into completing a lot than people realize and also being able to keep it within the white lines and still getting the most out of it. It’s a lot more complex than just, you know, “keep it within the white lines.”

In a sport where every millisecond — and every millimeter — matters, there is a fine line between finishing a great lap, and finishing in the barrier. Stroll is just the latest example.

Winners – Haas

Sometimes it is hard to remember that F1 is also a team sport.

Haas gave us a brilliant reminder on Saturday.

Kevin Magnussen was hit with a pair of ten-second penalties in the first half of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, one for an incident with Alexander Albon for “causing a collision,” the other for leaving the track to gain an advantage when he completed an overtake of Yuki Tsunoda.

But rather than change up his strategy, or retire, Magnussen hung in there on the track while running at the front of a DRS train, with a number of drivers behind him. The reason? Teammate Nico Hülkenberg was ahead of him, staring down a finish in the points.

Magnussen’s mission? Hold up the cars behind him as best as he can, to make sure that when Hülkenberg completed his necessary pit stop, he would rejoin the fight in a points position.

Mission accomplished. Hülkenberg came in for his pit stop, and rejoined the fight in P11, with a few drivers in front of him who still needed to pit. Among those was Sauber driver Zhou Guanyu, who was running in P10.

“Excellent teamwork,” came the word over Magnussen’s radio from his team.

In the closing laps, Zhou finally had to come in, and for the second week in a row, the team endured a lengthy pit stop. Last week there was a problem with the front left tire of Valtteri Bottas, which resulted in a pit stop of nearly a minute. This time it was the front right on Zhou’s C44, which held him up and saw the Chinese driver rejoin the fight in P18.

And Hülkenberg in P10, the final points position.

The team paid tribute to Magnussen following the checkered flag:

It might be a single point, but it came thanks in large part to Magnussen doing everything he could for his team.

Loser – Pierre Gasly

The challenging start to the 2024 F1 season got worse at Alpine, even before the lights went out Saturday night.

On the formation lap, Pierre Gasly reported a problem with his gearbox. He was able to lumber back to the starting grid and start the race, but was immediately told to bring his A524 into the pits on the first lap.

He did not return to the track, and his night was finished right after it began.

It will go into the books as a P20 for Gasly.

Right now, Alpine is in a fight against time. They need to find the answers to the problems with their A524, and when points are not on the table, getting as much data as they can over the course of 50 laps is critical.

The gearbox failure suffered by Gasly was the last thing they needed on Saturday.

Winner – Charles Leclerc

For the second time in as many races this season, Ferrari find themselves on the podium.

In Bahrain it was Sainz, who powered to a P3 behind the Red Bull duo. This time with Sainz sidelined with his appendectomy it was Charles Leclerc, delivering a comfortable podium finish for Ferrari. Leclerc also laid down the fastest lap of the race, on the final lap of the race, picking up an extra point.

“Overall the feeling was pretty good,” said Leclerc to David Coulthard following the race. “We took the maximum points we could today, and that was the target so that’s great.”

He also praised Bearman’s effort.

“He’s done an incredible job,” said Leclerc. “Seventh in your first race in Formula 1 is just hugely impressive … I guess it’s just a matter of time before he comes here in Formula 1.”

Losers – Sauber’s nuts

For the second week in a row, Sauber found a pit stop undone by problems while changing a tire.

Last week it was the nut on the left front on Valtteri Bottas’ C44, and on Saturday night in Saudi Arabia it was the nut on the right front on Zhou Guanyu. While Bottas was unlikely to finish in the points, Zhou’s pit stop came when he had just given up P10 on the track, and still had a chance — if a longshot — to fight back and capture a single point.

But when there was an extended delay getting a new right front tire on, any outside chance was eliminated.

Absolutely nuts.



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