Oliver Bearman knows it’s all or nothing in Qualifying around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The PREMA Racing driver is prepared to make the most of a positive Free Practice to push himself back up to the front of the pack.
Helping to secure a PREMA 1-2, he was just over a tenth off teammate Frederik Vesti’s best effort. Bearman says he was pleased to hit the ground running after a slow opening to the session and a Red Flag stoppage derailed his original run plan.
“It’s nice to be up there with a good result, although it doesn’t mean much. It was a pretty quiet session. Around this track you don’t get many laps on the tyres at their peak, only one or two maximum. We were waiting a bit for the track to clean up before we went out and set our lap. Then, when we decided to go out, there was a Red Flag. Only three push laps in the end, but the car felt really good so I’m happy with that.”
It’s been a series of contrasting fortunes for Bearman over the previous two weekends. The triumphant highs of a clean sweep in Baku were swiftly followed by frustration on the streets of Monte Carlo after failing to add any more points to his tally.
Citing his error finding the barrier at Turn 8 during Free Practice in Monte Carlo, Bearman believes executing a measured performance in Free Practice this time around has put him on a more solid footing. However, having traded the early May showers during in-season testing for the blistering summer heat, the Ferrari junior is aware that there are still many unanswered questions going into Friday afternoon’s running.
“I think we had really good pace in Monaco. I struggled a bit to find the confidence after my mistake in Free Practice on Thursday as it put us a bit behind. Then, there were a few things out of my control in Qualifying which hurt us because we couldn’t really overtake there, but on Sunday we had really, really good pace. Although it was a tough round, we can take positives from it. It’s obviously a unique track and now for the rest of the season, we’re back to standard tracks.
“The Free Practice in Monaco wasn’t ideal, especially on a track that punishes mistakes. It’s a very similar thing in Barcelona because you have to be on the limit straight away because you only get a maximum of two push laps before the tyres start to degrade. As a team we did a good job, I had a nice feeling with the car, and it was important to have a good FP and now we can be confident heading into Quali.
“We did three days here with very mixed conditions. Now we’re here, it’s the same track and same layout, but very different actually with an extra 20°C of track temperature and car behaviour. The learning curve is obviously much less, and we managed to get the peak out of the tyres. If we hadn’t been here before, we would still be improving lap by lap, which wasn’t really the case.”
Whilst track position isn’t everything in Barcelona, that doesn’t mean Bearman’s prepared to take it easy in Qualifying. Tyre degradation on the soft Pirelli rubber leaves the drivers facing a limited number of attempts at nailing their laps. The Briton is unsurprisingly aiming for the front, but knows that the battle to achieve that will be fierce.
“We’ve got two sets of softs, so that means there’s only two chances to go for it. I’m obviously aiming high after that strong FP, but I don’t expect anything in particular. The Quali is going to be super close, but I’ll do my best.”