Britain’s racing future steals the show in Saudi Arabia
Published:
March 11, 2024

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Bearman, a teenage member of Ferrari'sDriver Academy program, had taken pole position in Formula 2 on Thursday. Hewas gearing up for a weekend racing in the second tier when news broke thatSainz had appendicitis. With only a single hour of Free Practice running in anall-new car for the Chelmsford-born 18-year-old racer, Bearman qualified P11,just 0.036 shy of Lewis Hamilton's Q3-worthy time.

Despite the attention on Bearman, theother Ferrari of Charles Leclerc had the TV coverage in the opening corners ofthe race. Leclerc had to fend off Sergio Perez's attack after the Mexican racerenjoyed a better start with his Pirelli tyre's grip. Unwilling to give up hisP2 starting position, Leclerc held his nerve to fend off the Red Bull, lettingpolesitter Verstappen stride off into the distance.

Elsewhere, Lando Norris was underscrutiny for appearing to jump the start and move his McLaren before the fivered lights went out. Fortunately for Norris, the FIA sensor that monitored hiscar's movement in the starting box was faulty, and he escaped any penalty thatwould hurt his race.

Britain’s racing future steals the show in Saudi Arabia

As the race settled down, Leclerccould only hold back the faster Red Bull for a handful of laps. Perez used DRSdown the long main straight to ease past his Ferrari rival to create the 1-2lead for the Milton Keynes team. Although alternative pit strategies would seethe pair briefly out of the top places, Red Bull's duo effectively retained thelead for the remaining 47 laps of the 50-lap race.

Those alternative pit strategiesplayed out because of a heavy crash from Lance Stroll to trigger the firstSafety Car slowdown of the season. His Aston Martin clipped the inside barrierat Turn 22 to send the Canadian into the wall and out of the race. Everyoneaside from Hamilton, Norris, Nico Hulkenberg, and Guanyu Zhou opted to use the'free' pit stop to switch to Pirelli's white-ringed hard compound tyre to rununtil the end of the race. The busyness of the pit lane had Perez released inthe path of Fernando Alonso, but the resulting five-second penalty wouldn'taffect his final position.

When racing resumed, Norris hadinherited the lead, albeit needing to pit, with Hamilton sitting in third. Thetwo managed to stay in the podium positions for a handful of laps, but thefresher Pirelli rubber soon had the net leaders getting past as the pair triedto eke out their tyres for another Safety Car slowdown that would never come.

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Britain’s racing future steals the show in Saudi Arabia

Although the two British racerswouldn't benefit from their unorthodox strategy of running the medium compoundfor most of the remaining laps, Hulkenberg would. Kevin Magnussen sacrificedhis race by some elbows-out defending to keep the American team's midfieldrivals behind him, picking up multiple penalties in the process. Hisdeliberately slow driving built up a gap that Hulkenberg could later pit intoand pick up P10 and a valuable point in a great display of teamwork betweenHaas's veteran drivers.

At the other end of their F1 careerwas Bearman, a Haas candidate for 2025, who had begun using his growingconfidence to make overtaking moves on Yuki Tsunoda and Hulkenberg into Turn 1.The rookie racer demonstrated his patience by never going for an overtake thathe couldn't complete, and his reward was a tremendous P7 finish in a faultlessdebut. He completed a British quartet as George Russell crossed the line in P6,with newcomer Bearman beating Norris and Hamilton behind in P8 and P9.

After a double-header start, F1 has afortnightly schedule for the next five rounds. The flyaway trip to Australiawill see nine teams try to close the gap on Red Bull's dominance, while thechampionship leaders will hope for an easier time off track after some bruisingweeks in the media spotlight.

Britain’s racing future steals the show in Saudi Arabia
Britain’s racing future steals the show in Saudi Arabia