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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix talking points: Bearman solidifies Haas hopes - and there's trouble brewing for Ricciardo

Another grand prix, another Max Verstappen and Red Bull win.

And while it wasn’t the most exciting race we’ve ever seen, there are still plenty of things to talk about across the grid.

Bearmen in the Haas box set, but take a breath first

The talk of the paddock in Saudi Arabia was that of British rookie Oliver Bearman, who thoroughly impressed across the weekend after being drafted in late to replace the sick Carlos Sainz for Ferrari.

Bearman qualified 11th, narrowly missing out on Q3, before a strong drive in the race saw him finish seventh to become the 68th driver in F1 history to score points on debut, as well as third youngest driver to score points behind on Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll.

Of course with all the hype comes the talk of ‘what next’ for the Brit. Sainz is expected to be back in the car in Melbourne, meaning Bearman will be back to Ferrari reserve driver. However, the chances of him securing a race seat next season with Ferrari-aligned Haas have been given a massive boost.

But with all the hype, it’s important to take a step back, breathe and just not get over excited about his prospects.

Remember that last time we found ourselves in this position? A driver was replaced last minute after suffering from appendicitis which lead to an extraordinary debut from someone people have been hyping up for some time?

That race was Monza 2022. The super sub was Nyck de Vries. And we all know what happened the subsequent year.

Of course there are many differences between Bearman and de Vries and their respective journey across motorsport, so there are elements that are hard to compare. However, we also need to just be sure not to overhype a driver based on one performance and surround them with pressure that may end up becoming too much once they’re given more than one race to show their skills.

Perhaps this time in 12 months will be a better gauge as to just how good Oliver Bearman really is.

Magnussen plays the team game, so why the criticism?

Speaking of Haas, the man Bearman would likely replace in 2025, Kevin Magnussen, put in a sterling team effort during the race to help teammate Nico Hulkenberg secure the team’s first point for 2024.

Through a variety of tactics that have caught the ire from other teams and pundits alike, Magnussen amassed 20 seconds worth of time penalties for his exploits, which included a collision with Alex Albon’s Williams and then another for leaving the track to gain an advantage when fighting with the RB of Yuki Tsunoda.

It was the latter however that many questioned, with Magnussen doing so to help back up the RB to allow his teammate Hulkenberg to build up a bigger gap and emerge ahead in the pitstops.

Given that F1 is ultimately a team sport, how is this something that is questioned?

(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Time penalties were implemented a decade ago to replace the far more severe drive through and stop go penalties which did go over the top for some very minor infringements. So in essence, the FIA introduced a rule that can be exploited in such a circumstance to help out teams in a variety of situations.

By having Magnussen help hold up other teams for the advantage of his teammate, it essentially works in the same way as if in a game of Aussie Rules, a player is held all game by another player to stop their impact on a game overall.

Again, F1 is a team sport, and Magnussen played the team game to perfection.

Ricciardo needs to pick up his game, and fast

For a man who has gone through so many peaks and troughs in his career, 2024 was meant to finally be the redemption for Daniel Ricciardo.

Many pundits, myself included, expected the West Australian to shine in 2024 and put himself in the box seat to replace the struggling Sergio Perez at Red Bull, possibly even earlier than the end of the season.

However, two races in, Ricciardo is struggling. And big time.

Both races he has been well and truly out qualified by teammate Yuki Tsunoda, and only finished ahead of him in the race in Bahrain due to late team orders. In Saudi finishing only one spot behind Tsunoda flattered Ricciardo, as he in no way was that close to the Japanese driver in the race.

Yes, it’s only been two races. But the gap so far is way bigger than many expected. And with Perez also starting the season well, Ricciardo may have to start looking behind him at a certain Kiwi driver waiting in the wings, rather than Perez in front of him.

(Photo by Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Piastri enters Melbourne on fire

On the other side of the Australian spectrum however, things are coming up Millhouse.

Oscar Piastri drove a superb race in Saudi Arabia, finishing fourth and most importantly, well ahead of teammate Lando Norris.

This comes a week after he finished only two spots behind Norris in Bahrain, putting him ahead of Norris in the Championship as he returns to his home race and the scene of his breakthrough debut points finish 12 months ago.

The McLaren may not be as fast as many predicted it would be in 2024, but it’s definitely in a better position than it was a year ago, giving the team plenty to build on.

That is only good news for Piastri, who will be looking to continue this strong form into his home race in just over a week’s time.

Red Bull continues to break records, but will it be for much longer?

Nine race wins in a row now for Max Verstappen who can tie his own record for most consecutive wins in Australia.

His victory also put Red Bull ahead of Williams in the overall victory list for F1 teams, with the Austrian team now sitting on 115 wins, which is fourth overall behind only Mercedes (125), McLaren (183) and Ferrari (243).

And while I can list even more records here, the big question remains: how long will this last for?

(Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Not because they look like faltering any time soon, more so for the fact with all the internal issues with Red Bull at the moment, there looks like an ever growing chance that the dream team of Verstappen and Red Bull could be over sooner rather than later.

Many have questioned Verstappen over his commitment to the team with the issues happening there at the moment (which let’s be honest, are too many to go over in an article like this), and whispers are circling that he may be tempted to try greener pastures should the situation continue to spiral.

Does that mean we’ll be seeing Verstappen take up Hamilton’s seat at Mercedes for 2024? Perhaps he will join Hamilton in a Ferrari with Leclerc heading to Mercedes instead? Or could he shock the entire F1 world, move to Haas and try to lay his legacy in a different direction than anyone ever expected?

Of course the answer to those questions is more than likely no, but anything can happen in F1. And as the great Murray Walker once said, it usually does.

This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here


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