No points but F1’s three rookies encouraged by their starts to 2023

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Three drivers began their first full Formula 1 campaigns in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

While none of them came away with any points, and one barely completed more than a dozen laps, the trio all declared themselves satisfied with their start to life as full-time grand prix drivers.

Logan Sargeant

Start: 16th – Finish: 12th

Logan Sargeant endured an agonising close miss in qualifying where he had the pace to join team mate Alexander Albon in Q2. The Williams newcomer set an identical lap time to the thousandth of a second as Lando Norris but the McLaren driver claimed the final place in the second round as he set the time before Sargeant.

Nonetheless the Formula 2 graduate overtook three cars on his first lap in F1 and made it into the top ten before his first pit stop. He repeated the feat during his second stint of the race, then his third pit stop under a Virtual Safety Car period dropped him back down to 14th.

Sargeant passed Nyck de Vries and Zhou Guanyu to finish 12th, but lost his chance to complete the full race distance when Max Verstappen put him a lap down shortly before the chequered flag.

Logan Sargeant, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Sargeant had the best finish of the rookie trio
He described himself “really pleased” with his first race. “I feel like everything operationally from race start to pit stops, VSCs, everything went smoothly. I’m really happy with the pace that me and Alex had today. The team’s done an amazing job all weekend, just unlocking that pace.”

“We probably didn’t expect where we were now, compared to the test,” Sargeant admitted, “and that’s just a massive testament to the work that the team has done. Super proud of everyone.”

Sargeant said he “just looked for the gaps and tried to fill them” on lap one as he made up places. ”I loved every second of it. I love the on-track battles and it’s super fun.”

He described the experience of being in an F1 race as “very natural” once he was in the thick of things.

“Before the formation lap, there was a little extra [nerves]. But to be honest, I felt like once I got into the race, once I got into the rhythm, it all felt very natural.”

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Nyck de Vries

Start: 19th – Finish: 14th

Dr Vries made his F1 debut at Monza in 2022 as a last-minute substitute for Albon at Williams. He said he physically felt “a lot better than Monza” on his return. “I think I’m ready for a double training session tomorrow”.

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
AlphaTauri’s VSC tactics didn’t help De Vries
Despite his previous experience, de Vries was not able to get off the last row of the grid in qualifying and lost places when he was in wheel-to-wheel battles during the race. But the fact his team mate Yuki Tsunoda fought for points left de Vries encouraged on Sunday night.

“We were encouraged to find out that we were actually fighting in the midfield,” he said. “We were up there to fight against the others, and that was positive.

“We gained some positions, obviously most of them were retirements, but I think it was a decent comeback in terms of performance and execution after the last couple of days.”

After the race AlphaTauri admitted they were reassessing whether they made the right choice by not pitting De Vries when a Virtual Safety Car period neutralised the race 16 laps from the end.

Race start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Poll: Vote for your 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix driver of the weekend
“We decided to stay out for the last VSC, which maybe would have paid off differently if we didn’t,” said the driver. “But I think points were not realistic. A P12 fight could have been maybe doable, but overall I’m fairly encouraged by our race.”

De Vries thought his race pace was good enough to be “right up there” with Tsunoda had Saturday gone to plan. “If we would have qualified a little bit better, we would have been in the same mix.

“So it’s encouraging to experience that the race pace was decent, but it also shows that we need everything to come together to score points, because we still need to be realistic and acknowledge the fact that there were retirements. So there is still work to do.”

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Oscar Piastri

Start: 18th: – Finish: Retired

Having spent 2022 on the sidelines after winning the 2021 F2 title, Piastri has now done 13 racing laps in the last 449 days, all of which were in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix. His F1 debut was cut short due to damage to the electrics of the McLaren MCL60’s steering framework.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Piastri’s first race for more than a year was brief
“It probably started a couple of laps before I stopped,” he explained. “Just a few things flashing up on the dash that were a bit unexpected. Then it started messing with the gear shifts and stuff like that. Obviously not ideal.”

Before retiring Piastri made a good start to his race. “The launch was really good,” he said. “I didn’t get the cleanest run into turn one with Tsunoda. But I thought my first lap was reasonable.

“Then after that, I was sort of in the DRS train not being able to do much until some other people had some tyre deg and then managed to pass Hulkenberg. So all in all, I think a lot of boxes ticked from the start. And I obviously was clean myself, so I think it was positive.”

He added he was “pleasantly surprised” at not feeling race-rust despite his long absence from competition.

“It came back pretty naturally, I’d say. Getting a good start and launch was a good confidence boost. Then I did my homework for the first lap and I’ve raced around here in F2 so I knew a little bit what to expect.

“I thought from my side everything was going pretty well, just the experience in the dirty air effect and following and managing the battery pack and stuff in the race. All boxes that I’ve now ticked off, or at least partially ticked off.”

Piastri was, overall, pleased with his limited running in the car. “From my side it’s been a positive week and I feel like I’m getting more and more comfortable every time I jump in the car so I’m looking forward to Jeddah.”

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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2 comments on “No points but F1’s three rookies encouraged by their starts to 2023”

  1. Archibald Bumfluff
    7th March 2023, 12:40

    I don’t think anyone expected Logan Sargent in the Williams to be the best placed rookie after the first race.

    With the form of the McLaren and the Alpha Tauri the way they are, it could stay that way.

  2. Not sure who was more disappointing between Nyck and Oscar.

    Oh well, another two drivers who’ll soon enough be able to claim to have had a career in F1.

Comments are closed.