Oliver Bearman got his first taste of Formula 2 at Yas Marina following the conclusion of the 2022 season. The Briton took part in the post-season test with PREMA Racing, graduating from F3 to the Italian F2 outfit.
Bearman also spent the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend embedded with the team to get up to speed with its F2 operation. Following that, he finished inside the top three on day one, completing a total of 233 laps around the Abu Dhabi circuit.
“It was a really cool experience,” Bearman reflected. “It's been a long time coming and waiting for it. My last time in a car before this was in September, so it's been a while. It was really good to finally get a go in the F2 car.
“I was here for the race weekend to kind of see how everything works and to find my feet. Now to finally drive it, it was cool. We covered our full programme, we did all the performance stuff and the race runs, everything we need to do. I'm feeling quite confident after this and now looking forward to next season.”
His experiences across the race weekend and subsequent test have helped Bearman’s initial feelings in the PREMA setup. After arriving in F3 as a rookie in 2022, finishing the season third in the Drivers’ Championship, the Briton is making another immediate step up and learning a brand-new car.
The larger F2 car with bigger tyres took some adapting to but Bearman says that it was a smooth process getting to learn the basics. The team was able to help him get his head around the differences between what he was used to this year, chiefly the new Pirelli rubber he’ll have to master in 2023.
“First thing was the braking performance. We have the same braking point arriving 20 or 30 k's faster, so it does stop very fast. Then in Qualifying trim when you go onto softer compound - luckily, we got to try that here. It's not so often in the postseason tests that you get to do that so that's nice. That's a big, big experience and a big step.
“Luckily, they gave one set to me pretty early. We had one each afternoon which was nice. I was looking forward to the first set of softs. Obviously, it's a big step. You only get two shots on it due to the temperatures and it’s tough to maximise, but that's part of it. You need to make sure you're on top of it.
“It was kind of a case of getting used to it and finding your feet but after that, I just gained confidence in the car. The team did a good job of making me feel comfortable so fast so, thanks to them, it's been a good few days.
“The car is super nice to drive but the 18-inch wheels are quite difficult to get your head around. It's a bit less forgiving than what I'm used to but once you learn the limits of the car and get used to it, it's okay. It was nice.”
Alongside the basics of the physical car to learn, Bearman says that getting his head around the strategic element of the step up was a tough but hugely emphasised part of the programme at Yas Marina.
Learning the ins and outs of the F2 strategy was a big part of the operation during the three testing days. Multiple race runs across each day with simulations on the conventional and alternative strategies were tricky to get to grips with but hugely valuable according to the Briton.
“There's a lot of takeaways, a lot of stuff to look at and analyse with the team for the new year. We managed to do a lot of race runs, which is super important. The degradation is quite high, at least compared to what I'm used to so it's nice to get some race runs under my belt. The pitstops, we did a lot of practice for those. It's a lot of new things for me but it's part of the learning process and it's been useful.
“I think it's just everything - the step from prime to option, the pitstops. the options-to-prime in the race, there's so many things to master. My head was kind of confused at the start, but now it's all a bunch of new things and I would say I took away everything, at least as much as I could.”
Turning his attentions to next season, Bearman says that following the test he has plenty of work to get on with during the winter break.
Working with PREMA back at the team’s headquarters, he says that hours on the simulator will take up a lot of his winter break ahead of pre-season testing in Sakhir next year.
“Prep has already started. I'm heading back to PREMA next week to continue doing some work on the simulator and stuff like that. as well as analysing the test just gone, but I think the preparation is already well underway. This is the first time really we've looked towards next year.”