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


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

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. He placed 11th.

“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 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.

Bearman was 10th fastest in practice and looked similarly at home in qualifying later in the day. Small errors meant he missed out on the third and final session for the top 10 places by less than a tenth of a second. Bearman apologized to Ferrari over the radio but received warm praise from his new teammate Charles Leclerc.

“He has done an incredible job,” Leclerc said. “I cannot imagine how special it is for him to get the call this morning and to jump into a Ferrari on such a racetrack. I hope we can score good points, so that he keeps those memories in his mind forever.”

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 at the Italian GP.

Ferrari will have its first full-time British F1 driver this century when seven-time champion Hamilton replaces Sainz 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 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 Friday. F1 champion Max Verstappen’s lap for pole was nearly 15 seconds faster than Bearman’s F2 pole lap the day before.

Sainz drove in both of Thursday’s practices 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 it 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 on March 24 at the Australian GP in Melbourne.

“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 GP in 2022 with appendicitis, giving replacement Nyck de Vries an F1 debut, and returned at the next race in Singapore.

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing



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