Winning multiple races in a season on the way to a championship is a driver’s dream. Winning multiple races in simultaneous championships is a rarity. But winning races in three championships in a calendar year is almost unheard of. Oliver Bearman is doing exactly that – taking the motorsport world by storm, with Italian Formula 4 Championship glory, leading the ADAC Formula 4 Championship with one round to go, and even stepping into the GB3 Championship and winning.
Coming into 2021, 16-year-old Bearman joined the ever expanding Van Amersfoort Racing team with the sole intention of a dual assault on the Italian and German F4 championships and claiming both titles after a year’s experience in 2020. And with 11 wins, including seven in a row in Misano, Vallelunga and Imola, he took the title with ease at Mugello. In Germany, the young Brit has been equally impressive, scoring five wins early on and showing immense consistency to lead Tim Tramnitz by 23 points heading into the final round showdown at Nürburgring.
After catching up with him at Monza this past weekend, we talked about his rapid season thus far, how he managed to find another gear in 2021 and what he can look forward to in 2022, as an FIA F3 test with none other than the Prema Racing looms large.
“To be honest, this weekend was a huge highlight. Zandvoort was a particular highlight and in Vallelunga when I did three wins was really cool. Yeah, it’s been a really good season so far, and obviously there’s been a few lows, but I guess that’s the same with any season!”, he told F1 Feeder Series.
Move to Van Amersfoort Racing
Moving from team to team within a single make series can often be just the tonic a driver needs in unlocking the potential within to fight for a championship, and Bearman explained the differences from US Racing to Van Amersfoort and how the Dutch team have helped him progress into a title winning racer.
“I think they’re really open to change. I feel like last year everything was set in stone, like I had no option and I had to just drive the car. If the car suits you then you’ll be fast and if it doesn’t then you’ll struggle. And with this year and in the test, we managed to find something that suits me, and it just works. They’re really open to change and are really driver focused and I’ve developed so much more as a driver this year than I would in any other team, I think.
“To be honest, fundamentally every team is within small margins. So, it all must be about focusing on the details, and everything is always looked at. We spend hours in debriefs to the point where we look at track usage and the fine details, and that’s where the lap time is. I’ve learnt a lot about the car this year, especially mechanically, and that means I can suggest changes. I wouldn’t have been able to do that last year.”
Some drivers enter a series and hit the ground running, whereas others sometimes take half a season before launching a full-scale assault on the title the following year, and Ollie Bearman is a prime case study. Joining a new team with more engineering scope and flexibility coupled with his year of experience in 2020 has paid huge dividends.
“I didn’t do as much pre-season testing as anyone else, especially for a second-year driver. I think we did seven days maximum, but we covered the important ones like Red Bull Ring, Zandvoort & Vallelunga. There wasn’t a huge amount of prep, but we spent a lot of time at the factory, the simulator as well as looking at past videos. I haven’t had a test day since June this year!
“The other drivers have been to Mugello, Sachsenring and Monza for example, whereas we’ve been solely focused on the double campaign. I’ve come a long way as a driver to the point where I can turn up here in Monza and I was pretty much straight on the pace. It’s also good prep for next year as well.”
Leading ADAC F4
We quickly switched to Bearman’s ADAC Formula 4 campaign, and how he’s feeling about his points advantage over Tim Tramnitz heading into the last round decider at Nürburgring this coming weekend.
“Yeah, I’m really confident. Last year at the Nürburgring the team were really fast. I was in the US car. I’m super confident we can have good pace and we have a nice buffer, so it means I don’t have to take too many risks or anything like that. I can just bring the points home and hopefully claim the championship.
“The whole focus of the season is not taking too many risks, but obviously if a win on the table, then I’ll try and grab it, but I’m not going to go for anything crazy. I’m sure he (Tramnitz, ed.) will, so I have to be careful about that.”
One of the more unique experiences of Bearman’s season were his three appearances in the GB3 Championship in the UK, participating in the season opener at Brands Hatch, as well as two further rounds at Snetterton and Silverstone, with a win and four podiums overall to boost his credentials once again, as well as gaining experience in more powerful machinery.
“That was really cool, I really enjoyed it. We initially did some days over lockdown to get me back into the feeling of driving after the winter break. I did a couple of tests at Donington, and it went well, so we decided that we might as well do a couple of rounds. It’s also good prep for next year, the cars a bit more power and aero so yeah, I jumped in at Brands, never been around the track before and went straight out there and stuck it on the front row.
“To jump in a be straight on the pace makes me confident for next year as well, especially with limited testing in every championship. The tracks there are a bit more old school, they really punish mistakes whereas at places like Monza you can lock up into T1 and just go straight on. If you have a little snap at Brands, then you’ve written the car off. It’s a cool car, cool championship. GB3 is a little more laid back.”
But the question on everyone’s lips as we departed Monza was a simple one, “What is Ollie Bearman doing for 2022?”, and with the FIA F3 test at Valencia commencing just a day after the close of play in Northern Italy, it was announced that he would be testing at all three days for Prema Racing alongside Arthur Leclerc, Jak Crawford and Paul Aron. Bearman was quick to explain his excitement at testing for such a great team, as well as what he’s expecting from the test and where he’d ideally like to be plying his trade in the coming year.
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a new experience. There’s very limited experience in that car, so it’s important to do all three days. And to get all three days with Prema – there isn’t a better team so I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic experience.
“I mean, it would be silly not to look for a Prema 2022 seat, but I’ll be doing all three days with them so hopefully I can make a positive impact.
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