until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Why Haas is disregarding 2025 signing Bearman's awful F2 season

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
6 min read

Ollie Bearman's first win in Formula 2 this season, achieved five days ago at the Red Bull Ring, is mentioned in the very first paragraph of Haas's announcement that he will drive for the team in 2025 in Formula 1.

That announcement was issued on Thursday morning, appropriately on the eve of what will be Bearman’s home F1 race next year, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

He’s Haas’s first confirmed 2025 driver, with Nico Hulkenberg off to Sauber/Audi and Kevin Magnussen’s future uncertain.

Ollie Bearman

But that reference to Bearman’s F2 success is ripe for misdirection. Bearman's victory in the reversed-grid Saturday contest in Austria won't have come into Haas’s choice at all - not just because every indication is that the deal had already been agreed by then, but also because Haas has clearly taken everything that has happened to its chosen 2025 signing in F2 this year with a huge pinch of salt.

"Of course it's easier if he's winning, of course! But that's not the reality, is it?" said Haas boss Ayao Komatsu two days prior to his Austria win.

"You've got to trust the information you have."

Ollie Bearman

The information Komatsu trusts has also clearly led him to trusting Bearman. There are always mechanisms and outside factors - Bearman is a Ferrari junior who Ferrari wants to place in F1 and Haas is the obvious place to do that (given other Ferrari customer Sauber's impending transformation into Audi).

But there is zero indication of duress from Haas's side, no suggestion of worry that Bearman hasn't done enough or that his F2 struggles hint at some sort of fundamental limitation.

For a famously rookie-reluctant outfit, that sort of public stance says a lot.

"I don't know everything about F2, what happens with this regulation, what the team is doing, etc," said Komatsu.

Ollie Bearman F2 2024

"This is why I said it all the way - yes, he should of course try to deliver the result in F2, perform in F2. But I don't know the full story. I have been doing this long enough to know that, if you don't know the full story, you can very, very easily draw the wrong conclusion.

"And then what I've seen with Ollie last year, and then this year so far, at least what's happening here, I'd like to think I know what's happening, I know what's behind it."

The star-making Saudi Arabian GP cameo with Ferrari comes up a lot in Haas's announcement - and that's certainly played more of a part. But there's "absolutely" more to it than that, says Komatsu, and the implication is pretty clear that Bearman's FP1s with Haas have been what really swung it.

Bearman's FP1s

Ollie Bearman Haas Mexican Grand Prix practice 2023

Mexico 2023
12. Hulkenberg, +1.250s
15. Bearman, +1.595s

Abu Dhabi 2023
19. Magnussen, +1.390s
20. Bearman, +1.497s

Imola 2024
15. Bearman, +1.677s
20. Hulkenberg, +4.069s

Spain 2024
17. Magnussen, +1.416s
19. Bearman, +1.637s

Bearman's practice outings so far will have given Haas reassurance that, instead of the growing pains that sometimes await a team bringing through a rookie in terms of pace, there is a high likelihood Bearman is already there or thereabouts in an F1 car.

This is important because the worst thing for a team in such a position would be bringing in a raw product, developing them into a more rounded, faster driver and then seeing that driver immediately recalled by the entity that’s loaned them to you so that you effectively get none of the benefits of that work.

Haas is protected fairly well from that, and that is reinforced by the fact it has signed Bearman on a multi-year deal. If in that timespan he will have performed well enough for Ferrari to pick him as Lewis Hamilton's successor, it will mean Haas will have already benefitted immensely.

In the meantime, Bearman's proof-of-concept pace has been paired with an approach repeatedly commended by Komatsu, who saw in the young Brit the determination to give the team exactly the running it was looking for in those practice sessions instead of trying to use these opportunities to drive up his paddock reputation and market value.

He is, in short, the kind of driver Haas wants to work with.

Is the sum total of all that enough to go fingers-in-the-ears, 'lalala' about Bearman's F2 campaign, where he sits 14th?

The fact of the matter is, Haas would not be committing to this deal if it seriously thought Bearman was the 14th-fastest driver on the F2 grid.

Which is fair enough, because even in this rather miserable season he hasn't been that. Simply getting to do the Saudi races (which he skipped due to the F1 call-up) would've likely doubted his current points tally, but there is also a widespread acknowledgment that Prema is not anywhere near top of the F2 teams' pecking order right now following the introduction of the new-for-2024 car.

And while his Austria win doesn't change much, Haas will have noted both that he got it done - and just how difficult it looked.

On the heels of a Barcelona weekend in which his race pace was such that to call it 'hideous' would hardly be editorialising, Bearman benefitted from the reversed-grid format after a relatively middling Austria qualifying - but, having taken the lead, managed his race to perfection despite the near-constant presence of Red Bull junior Pepe Marti (with a damaged rear wing) in DRS range behind him.

Bearman admitted to deliberately trying to feed Marti as much dirty air as possible through the fast corners - but also that, had that failed, he was ready to give up the win.

"It [the Barcelona misery] wasn't really in the back of my mind - it was in the front," he said. "I spent the whole race managing, saving, scared of the issues that we've had so far this year.

"Of course it's been quite difficult in terms of races - I think that's been where our weakness has kind of shown itself so far this season. So, it was the main goal since lap one, it was all I was thinking about during the race.

"And at some stage even Pepe was closing on me, I was thinking to let him pass and just focus on my own race, do the pace that we could do. It turned out to be enough."

Ollie Bearman Prema Austria F2 2024

It's not been any specific limitation round-to-round, Bearman insisted - "always a bit different" but manifesting itself primarily at the higher-energy circuits, which is why he was at his best at places like Jeddah and Monaco.

Team-mate Kimi Antonelli remains 20 points ahead of Bearman, but that's circumstantial - in Austria, Bearman had him well-covered and was rewarded for that, after the sprint win, with a mechanical failure on Sunday.

And just like Mercedes has clearly used Bearman as the F2 benchmark for Antonelli, Haas will no doubt look at it the other way around.

It will have heard, as has everyone, that Mercedes has been mightily impressed by what it's seen from Antonelli in private older-spec F1 car testing. But Austria showed that, in their F2 head-to-head, even if Antonelli has been more of a handful than Bearman will have hoped for, he has not broken the Briton.

But all that's secondary - just another way to sell a decision Haas has already clearly made a long time ago.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks