Summarising his day as a race of two halves, Oliver Bearman was left frustrated not to have been able to capitalise on his rapid speed during the opening phase of the Silverstone Sprint Race.
PREMA Racing Teammate Frederik Vesti got things underway with a rolling start and Bearman pounced from fifth on the grid. He quickly dispatched Enzo Fittipaldi with a daring move around the outside of Becketts, before a Safety Car restart handed him another opportunity.
He quickly overtook Théo Pourchaire and Isack Hadjar on the same lap, swooping past the ART Grand Prix driver at Turn 3 before selling his fellow rookie in the #10 Hitech Pulse-Eight the dummy into Stowe for second.
However, as conditions steadily improved, the Briton’s pace withered away. Ultimately having to settle for sixth, Bearman admitted that he’d had better days in the office, as he found his understanding of dealing with the wet-to-dry conditions lacking.
“I'm bit disappointed really, it wasn't my best performance. You saw my spin, which led to a difficult second half of the race and a couple of lost positions. Clearly lacked a little bit of pace, but we've got some work to do to gain experience faster in the wet conditions.
“The opening phase of the race was where I felt really strong. I had massive confidence and was able to go straight to second. When it started to dry, that’s when the issues came a bit more. Obviously, it helps that I've driven here in the wet before, it's quite often wet here so that helped me a bit in the early laps. After that it was tough to manage the pace and manage the tyres on a basically dry track at the end of the race where the tyres aren’t designed for that.”
Whilst the Silverstone Sprint was the fourth wet race of the season, tackling the changing conditions remains a steep learning curve for all the drivers, particularly the rookies. Two costly errors hampered Bearman, as his first wide moment at Club on Lap 6 undid his work to get past Hadjar and Pourchaire.
From then on, the Ferrari junior found himself locked in a fierce back-and-forth duel with Invicta Virtuosi Racing’s Jack Doohan. At one point, it seemed that the Australian driver had gotten his way through but found himself squeezed onto the run-off at Stowe.
That enabled Bearman to open up a gap, focusing his attentions on catching up to Hadjar. He was soon through, diving up the inside of the Frenchman at Copse on Lap 15.
Bearman and Doohan’s battle resumed after the Alpine junior was able to pass Hadjar also, but Bearman’s second error cost him a potential podium. A lock up into Stowe sent him running over the gravel and dropped him to sixth behind Hadjar and Fittipaldi.
In hindsight, the PREMA driver admits that he should have been prepared to cut his losses at that point, rather than exhausting his efforts keeping Doohan at bay.
“The early phase of the race was really strong. I think it came back to bite us at the end, I had to overtake Hadjar twice. There are some places where you can go for it if you trust the other driver and all the guys out there are really good, so I managed to pull off some good moves out there.
“Clearly in that phase of the race, Doohan was much faster than me. Once he passed, he was down the road. From my side, I obviously didn't want to let him by, I was trying to hold on. I probably shouldn't have fought him so hard; I lost a bit too much time and I had the lock-up which took me off track. That's something to learn and work on for the next wet race.”
Shaking off the disappointment, Sunday’s Feature Race presents another chance for him to take a shot at a spot on the podium. Relieved at the prospect of a dry running, Bearman remains assured that PREMA’s package will be well suited to what lies ahead.
Silverstone’s demanding layout will push the drivers to their limit and be a test of their endurance and racecraft. Managing the Pirelli tyres will be paramount, but the question of whether to go for the option/prime or prime/option strategy remains open.
Logan Sargeant pushed his opening stint on the softs to Lap 11 before completing 18 laps on the hard compounds on his way to victory last year. Nevertheless, Bearman is expecting the 29 laps to prove to be a very different kind of challenge to the Sprint.
“I’m really confident with our pace. The race pace has been really good in the in the last couple of rounds. I always have fun in this track, the car has been feeling really good in the dry. Starting P5, I just hope for a good first lap and then after, we see where we are and that will obviously determine our strategy.
“I think it's the highest energy track of the season, that's why we are quite conservative with the tyre compounds. That means that to put together a good race, you need to manage your stints really well. It's going to be difficult whatever strategy we choose, but we'll try and make the most of it and see what we can do.”