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Leclerc hails "incredible" Bearman after drive to seventh in F1 Saudi Arabian GP

Charles Leclerc has heaped praise on Oliver Bearman's 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix drive, saying "it's just a matter of time" before the Ferrari substitute graduates full-time to Formula 1.

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari SF-24, Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

After taking part in practice, regular Ferrari racer Carlos Sainz was forced to undergo surgery for appendicitis to leave the team to call on the services of Prema Racing FIA F2 driver Bearman.

He had narrowly missed out on a Q3 appearance in qualifying so lined up 11th on the grid before launching well to then set about executing a string of well-judged passes - capped off by a dummy on Yuki Tsunoda to launch down the inside of the RB into Turn 1.

That came in addition to clean moves on Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hulkenberg on his way to an eventual seventh, Bearman crossing the line 24 seconds behind third-placed Leclerc.

For his efforts, Bearman was voted by viewers as the 'Driver of the Day'.

Rating his temporary team-mate's performance and the plaudits that came Bearman's way, Leclerc said: "I mean, he completely deserves it. He's done an incredible job already from FP3.

"He was straight on the pace in qualifying. He did a great job and missed Q3 by so little.

"I think today, he's been incredible. I mean, seventh in your first race in F1, and having only done FP3 in a new car, is just hugely impressive. So, I'm sure he's extremely proud."

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari SF-24

Oliver Bearman, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Leclerc reckoned that Bearman, whose Prema team-mate Andrea Kimi Antonelli is heavily linked with replacing Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton, had forced his way onto people's radar.

He continued: "But everybody has noticed how talented he is. And I guess it's just a matter of time before he comes here in Formula 1."

Leclerc was able to keep second-starting Sergio Perez at bay through the opening corners of the 50-lap race as polesitter Max Verstappen escaped unchallenged on his way to the eventual win.

But an early safety car, triggered by Lance Stroll crashing, created a round of pitstops during which Leclerc was delayed by three seconds as traffic prevented him from exiting the pitbox.

"We had quite a good pace because we had the fastest lap at the end - I got a bit helped by a DRS," was Leclerc's assessment. "But overall, the feeling was pretty good.

"It was a bit of a boring race because Red Bull were a bit too quick. Behind, we had a bit of a gap. But we took the maximum points we could today. That was the target."

Perez held on to second place behind Verstappen despite getting a five-second penalty for an unsafe release in the pitlane.

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