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Formula 1 Saudi Arabian GP

Hamilton: F1 debut at 18 would have hurt my career

Lewis Hamilton believes that matching Oliver Bearman by entering Formula 1 at 18 would have damaged his career as he wouldn’t have been ready to make the transition.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Bearman impressed the whole F1 paddock by jumping into Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari in Jeddah on Friday and qualifying 11th, having come close to bumping Hamilton out of Q3.

At age 18 Hamilton won the 2003 Formula Renault UK title, before making his F3 debut in the Macau and Korea events at the end of the year.

He then spent two full seasons in F3 and one in GP2 before graduating to a McLaren F1 race seat in 2007, after conducting a substantial winter test programme.

Bearman makes his F1 debut in Jeddah having gone from F4 to F3 to F2 in successive years and having had only limited F1 test running.

Asked by Autosport if he could imagine entering F1 at the same age, Hamilton was adamant that he would not have been ready.

"I was 22,” he said of his F1 debut season. “Eighteen, where was I, in F3? I was nowhere near ready for F1 at 18. But the times are different. The F2 cars are faster.

“I definitely wasn't ready. I think if I had come in at 18, just for me personally, because I wasn't ready, my career might not look how it has. So I'm glad I waited.

“But Max [Verstappen] came early, Kimi [Raikkonen] came early, and others have done it. I think me having waited, that's why I had 12 consecutive podiums in the first 12 races of my career. So I'm glad I got that base.”

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari SF-24

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Hamilton was full of praise for Bearman, who will be a Ferrari colleague next season even if he lands a race seat at Haas.

"Great guy,” said Hamilton. “He nearly took me out of Q3! He did such a great job. Pretty sad to hear the issue for Carlos, I hope that he's well and safe and has a good operation.

“But yeah, to jump in FP3 without any practice, and deliver like he has, is a mega, mega job.

“I'm really, really impressed, and it just shows what talent he is. Also, the car looks pretty good! So he's obviously got confidence straight away again out there."

Hamilton admitted that the race will be a huge challenge for the youngster, adding: “He's not even done any long runs. So he's obviously got experience of the other race, F2. But I think it'll be a massive challenge.

“But I think he's ready. He looks in great shape. And I think the cars seemed to be kind to the tyres in the last race. So I think he just needs to keep his cool, and I would say just enjoy it."

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