It’s been a tough rookie season for Logan Sargeant at Williams. There’s a record number of races to contend with and a variety of formats like ATA and the sprint race. It’s harder than ever to be a rookie but that doesn’t mean that they get a free pass, Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport after all. In saying that, Williams have been generous with Sargeant, ensuring that, despite a rough season, he will get another go in 2024 but beyond that there’s some things he needs to do to keep his seat.
In every aspect, Sargeant has been outperformed by his teammate, Alex Albon. That is understandable given Albon’s experience and skill, but if he wants to stay in F1 the American Sargeant needs the gap between them to “remain the same and shrink over time,” according to team principal, James Vowles.
“It’s ultimately… Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport,” he told the media ahead of Zandvoort. “It’s a fierce competition. It’s a meritocracy. You have to earn your place there.
“He [Sargeant] has to keep developing and moving forward. It needs improvements on consistency, which I’ve said through the season. The gap to Alex needs to remain the same and shrink over time.”
Vowles was sympathetic though, acknowledging that Sargeant has had little preparation before the season to get used to an F1 car so everything he has to learn, he has to learn during a race weekend and the new requirements in F1 have made that more complicated than ever in Vowles opinion.
“If we take a step back, we’ve put Logan in a situation where he came straight out of F2, had a day and a half of testing… Good luck, you’re a Formula 1 driver.
“And I think, when I reflect on this year, this is probably more difficult than any other year I’ve been in the sport for throwing someone in at the deep end and allowing them the time to catch-up. We didn’t do any running in previous Williams cars, that was it. His time here is his time here.
“… I didn’t realise this in January, but on reflection, now that I have Logan as a part of the team, you look back as to how we are now with an ATA format, sprint race format, wet weather as well, appearing pretty much most weekends and you’re in a situation where their learning cycle is significantly reduced, relative to what I knew five, 10, 15 years ago.”
Vowles acknowledged that while he is learning, the rate at which Sargeant improves now has to increase, something that Sargeant is aware of.
“There’s elements where he keeps growing and finding performance and improvements, and performance under pressure. That’s what we’re looking for. The rate of learning has to increase now. He’s aware of all of that, and I think he has a huge maturity beyond his years. He knows that in front of him is a career and a journey that’s within his power to control. And our job is to support him on that journey rather than punish him.”
Is Logan Sargeant Improving?
In stark contrast to Williams’ attitude to Sargeant, Red Bull are not so forgiving and understanding with their drivers (see Nyck de Vries below) though they don’t have the luxury of being a mid-field team like Williams who are improving but aren’t expected to get a podium or even points in every race. From that perspective it’s much easier for Williams to allow a driver more time to develop than a front-running team, but are Sargeant’s skills improving?
At the Dutch GP, Sargeant managed to get into Q3 for the first time but also crashed during the session. He started P10 in the race and put the car into the wall when he lost hydraulic pressure after taking a kerb that he had been hitting quite a few times already in the race without the same reaction.
That incident likely wasn’t his fault, but the fact remains that he is still is the only driver not to have earned points from the start of the season. He was close in the Bahrain, Austrian, and British Grands Prix earning P12, P13, and P11 respectively, his best finishes to date. On each occasion he was only two positions behind Albon. His worst finishes were from the Australian GP until the Canadian GP, that’s six races where he either finished at the back or didn’t finish at all. Since Canada he has definitely improved on race day, with Hungary being the exception (DNF).
In qualifying, Sargeant was on average 0.399s behind Albon from Bahrain to Spain (with his best deficit during Azerbaijan Q1 with 0.071s and worst deficit in Spain with 0.636s), though that has since slipped to an average of 0.706s from Canada onwards (his best deficit was in Austria with 0.275s and his worst in Canada with 1.399s). Something that has to be mentioned is that Sargeant did not have the upgraded Williams in Canada, but he did in Austria and shrunk the gap. Overall, Sargeant’s deficit to Albon in qualifying is about 0.645s.
The deficit is actually growing as the season continues, which may have Williams questioning his future in the sport because other drivers have lost their seat for less. Take for example Nyck de Vries, his average deficit was 0.197 seconds behind his teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, and managed to outqualify him on two occasions at Miami and Spain. That is much better than Sargeant’s 0.645s average deficit to Albon whom he has never outqualified this season.
De Vries lost his job because of his performance, but ultimately that was because of de Vries experience outside of F1 having won the Formula E series in 2021/22, Formula 2 in 2019, and Formula Renault 2.0 in 2014.
In Helmut Marko’s words, “I expected a much better performance in Austria and in Silverstone because both of these tracks, Nyck knew quite well – but the performance didn’t come up and we decided to change him.”
Sargeant clearly has more work to do in qualifying and his recent appearances in Q2 and Q3 may be attributed to factors contributing to car performance rather than his own skill, but that may be going too far. Take for example the British GP, a track favoured towards the Williams, and at the Dutch GP there were mixed conditions. These may be the reasons Sargeant was able to improve in the standings in both qualifying and the race.
So is Logan Sargeant getting better? Yes, but only in the race, his qualifying pace isn’t improving instead it looks to be getting worse, but thanks to an upgraded Williams, Sargeant is able to put the car in higher positions than he could earlier this season.
Should Sargeant keep his seat? His first year was always bound to be a rough one and there are factors to consider outside of performance. Sargeant is an American driver that’s arrived at a time when Formula 1 is more popular in the U.S. than ever which brings positive attention to Williams that may attract further sponsors and investment into the team.
Additionally, like Vowles said, he has had no preparation and very little experience in comparison to someone like de Vries who when compared to the 22-year-old Sargeant has only won two races and four podiums in the 2022 Formula 2 season and he took home 3rd in Formula 3 with an additional two wins and six podiums. Needless to say, there are different expectations for the two drivers. Sargeant is clearly still learning while de Vries doesn’t have that excuse, hence why he got the chop and Sargeant hasn’t.