British driver Ollie Bearman says he had ‘no expectations’ of winning the Sprint Race at Round 4 of the 2023 F2 season in Azerbaijan.
The teenager scored his maiden FIA Formula 2 victory in Baku, crossing the line in the pit lane behind the Safety Car, leading a PREMA 1-2 as team mate Frederick Vesti finished second.
“I was just trying to keep my nose clean, which was my goal,” the 17-year-old said, after a chaotic race in which the victory was also his first F2 podium.
“It’s great to take my first podium in the form of a win, that’s really cool!” the Chelmsford-born driver added.
The winning opportunity came on Lap 19, when the leading pair of Dennis Hauger and Victor Martins both found the wall at Turn 1 during a Safety Car restart.
Bearman was behind Vesti in fourth at the restart, but the pair successfully dodged the carnage in front of them to battle on the brakes into Turn 3.
A mistake by the Dane, who won the 2022 Sprint Race in Baku, allowed Bearman to snatch the lead seconds before a third Safety Car period in the race was called.
The Ferrari Driver Academy member described the race as “crazy” but added that the team has expected that, saying: “I just wanted to do the race and prepare for tomorrow.”
However, the number eight PREMA car made startling progress from ninth on the grid, reaching fourth position on Lap 11, and it soon became clear that Vesti – who ran third – and Bearman were quicker than Hauger and Martins at the front.
“Once it opened up, we saw we had quite a strong pace and I was able to come through. Huge thanks to the team for that,” said Bearman.
Bearman will start Sunday’s Feature Race from a pole position earnt on Friday – with a crooked steering wheel, no less – and the strong pace is encouraging.
After a tough start to life in Formula 2, where the pace on show hasn’t yielded the results it could have, Bearman expressed his delight that his hard work is starting to pay dividends.
Having taken the two championship points available for pole and 11 for winning the Sprint Race with the fastest lap of the race, Bearman is looking at a maximum score in Baku.
Back in 2016, when the series was known as GP2, then PREMA driver Antonio Giovinazzi took the pole, won both races, and set the fastest lap in the Sprint Race, also in Azerbaijan, but ART’s Nobuharu Matsushita denied the Italian driver all the points.
Image: Formula Motorsport Limited