Analysis: Sargeant’s Qatar radio reveals his painful struggle to end point-less run

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Logan Sargeant withdrew from the last race in Qatar due to ill health. This was an unusual decision, but a fully justified one under the circumstances, and one which no doubt hurt all the more as at one stage the rookie appeared to have a chance of finally scoring his first point in F1.

Instead he goes into his home race this weekend – his second of three this year – as the only full-time driver still yet to score this year. And the only driver whose place on the 2024 F1 grid is yet to be confirmed.

Sargeant’s tough run of races

Since his career-best finish of 11th place in the British Grand Prix, Sargeant has failed to meet the chequered flag in five races.

He qualified last at the Hungaroring where a slow first pit stop compromised his race. A short second stint helped him make up ground, but the pressure was still on and he spun. Following that, Williams chose to retire his damaged car from the race.

Joy of reaching Q3 at Zandvoort was short-lived
At Spa-Francorchamps he qualified 18th for the Belgian Grand Prix, and was ninth in Q1 but – not for the first time – ended up not being able to set a timed lap in Q2. A time penalty for pit lane speeding meant he finished that race in 16th rather than 14th, eight seconds behind team mate Alexander Albon on a slightly inferior strategy to him.

It looked like Sargeant would bounce back at Zandvoort, where he made it to Q3. But again he did not get a representative lap time in as he crashed out due to what he called a “millimetre mistake.” Unfortunately, Williams’ repair bill was amplified by another hefty crash for Sargeant in the race, this time caused by a hydraulic failure.

Once again it looked like he could bounce back when F1 got to Monza as he was-sixth fastest in Q1. But he lapped slower in Q2 and ended the race a penalised 13th due to a collision with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas. Sargeant had been running 10th with less than ten laps to go, which would have meant his first F1 point, but after Bottas got by the rookie’s over-eager attempt to reclaim the position resulted in a clash.

Singapore was the first in a series of unfamiliar tracks for Sargeant. While Albon got an updated front wing, perhaps explaining his pace advantage, Sargeant damaged the old one in the race by crashing into the wall at turn eight of the track and having to pit to get a replacement.

The mistakes crept in even earlier in the weekend at Suzuka, rather worryingly, as he binned his car at the final corner before completing a timed lap in Q1. Another incident with Bottas meant he retired in the first half of the race with floor damage. That non-finish meant a time penalty had no impact on his day, but did bring him up to four penalty points on his licence.

Several of those recent races fitted into a pattern of early progress which he failed to capitalise on, Sargeant believes. “Again, it was building into a nice weekend,” he explained afterwards. “I sound a bit like a broken record: it didn’t go right. It’s not much I can do other than move on from that.”

Logan Sargeant, Williams, Suzuka, 2023
He crashed in qualifying again at Suzuka
“I think Japan, including the lap, until the last corner in quali, was my best weekend to this point, 100%,” he added. “I built it up nicely, did everything I needed to, just too heavy on the right foot in the last corner and that’s how quickly it can go wrong.”

Amid speculation about Sargeant’s F1 future, Williams’ team principal James Vowles said in Qatar that the decision on whether his driver will keep his seat for 2024 would not be made until the season had finished, and that there are “very clear targets” for him to stay in F1.

Vowles said Sargeant’s Suzuka error was typical of his recent troubles. “What happens is, when it comes down to the crunch time, there are elements of inconsistency that creep in and […] that goes into an accident sometimes.”

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However he praised the rookie for “building on that consistency we’ve asked him to work on.” However Vowles acknowledged “the frustration has been there for many months” for Sargeant, predating this current error-prone spell.

If Sargeant does fall out of F1, then the world championship will have three grands prix in the USA next year and not a single home driver for the fans there to support. On the prospect of that, Sargeant is not getting distracted by the perceived pressure on him to raise his game to retain his seat.

“Maybe people from the outside [focus on the mistakes], but not the people who matter,” he said. “So everyone who knows what’s going on behind the scenes, who knows me as a person and wants me to succeed. I have the support from the team, so I don’t really care what anyone else thinks.”

How Sargeant’s Qatar Grand Prix retirement unfolded

Logan Sargeant, Williams, Losail International Circuit, 2023
Sargeant was in hunt for points early in Qatar GP
Matters did not improve for Sargeant in Losail where the errors continued, though his race ended in unusual circumstances which underlined how determined he is to end his wait for a point.

Although he was less than 0.1 seconds off Albon’s pace in the first segment of qualifying for the grand prix, he once again failed to get a representative lap time in during the follow-up qualifying session for the sprint race having “just drifted an inch too far over the line” and exceeded track limits multiple times.

The fastest of his deleted laps would have been enough for 16th place, which “if anything, that just builds my confidence”. But then “a silly mistake” meant he skated off at turn nine on lap three of the sprint race to end his day in the gravel.

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He saw Sunday as “a chance to right the wrong.” He started the race impressively by climbing to 12th on lap one, and found himself in the hunt for a top 10 finish. However Sargeant was ill when the weekend began, and the race’s extremely punishing conditions eventually led him to retire.

However his communications with his race engineer Gaetan Jego – and, at one stage, Vowles – showed how badly Sargeant wanted to stay in the race and cling to his chance of finally scoring a point:

Lap: 2/57 SAR: 2’24.779
Jego So P12, long race to go, looking good. So let’s just focus, do the basics.

Sargeant moved up to 11th on lap three as Bottas ahead chose to pit during an early Safety Car period. But even during that time, when not at racing speed, Sargeant sounded exasperated and not comfortable with his car.

Lap: 3/57 SAR: 2’23.162
Sargeant I’m doing everything I can here.
Jego Yeah that’s good. Keep doing everything.
Lap: 4/57 SAR: 2’25.067
Sargeant I need help on balance.
Jego Come again, please? Safety Car in this lap. Get ready for restart, keep working tyres. Come again, please?
Sargeant I just have a lot of oversteer, man.
Jego Yep. Yep. It was just the first lap. They come to you. Adjust your driving for the first lap at the restart. So remember you are P10 and P11 currently. So we are working as a team right now, okay? Zhou behind you.
Sargeant We always are.
Jego Zhou on medium.
Sargeant I got it.
Jego Yeah that’s fine. Zhuo on medium, Perez on hard and then Russell on medium. That’s the three cars behind you. In front of Alex, Hulkenberg on medium.

Sargeant held his position once racing resumed on lap five, and gave a frustrated response to Jego – “can you just let me race here” – when he was informed on the radio at the end of the lap his gap to the cars behind.

He had risen to eighth by lap 12 as others pitted, but failed to match the pace of the drivers who had undercut him and his first pit stop dropped him to 17th. However after a few laps on his new tyres, Jego was confident that Sargeant was in contention for a strong result:

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Lap: 16/57 SAR: 1’29.421
Jego We’re racing for P10. Bit different strategy but we’re racing for P10. Focus on your lap time right now.

The next round of pit stops began it lifted him to 11th. But a few laps before the end of his second stint, Sargeant admitted to feeling unwell.

Lap: 21/57 SAR: 1’30.041
Sargeant I ran wide, so I backed off.
Lap: 22/57 SAR: 1’29.805
Jego Come again. What do you say?
Sargeant I went wide but I backed off.
Sargeant Tyres?
Jego Currently all good.
Jego Okay, feedback on flap. Safety Car window is open.
Sargeant Minus one.
Lap: 23/57 SAR: 1’29.298
Sargeant I’m feeling pretty sick. I’ll be alright.
Jego Okay. Zhou 1.5 behind. Focusing on your lap times.

He pitted for a second time on lap 26, which dropped him to 18th place, and on his in-lap gave an update on his condition:

Lap: 26/57 SAR: 1’34.588
Sargeant I’m not feeling well at all.
Jego Okay. Understood. Are you happy to continue, question?
Sargeant Yeah.

Once in the pit lane, with the opportunity to get straight out of the car, Jego asked Sargeant again if he was alright. But he did not add any information about what position they would now be fighting for, which would have no doubt have influenced Sargeant’s decision on whether to continue racing or not:

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Lap: 27/57 SAR: 1’53.468
Jego Are you feeling okay? Are you happy to continue, question?
Sargeant Let’s keep going.
Jego Okay.
Sargeant I feel like I might throw up.

On lap 32 of 57, Sargeant mentioned how unwell he felt again. A lap later Williams deemed it necessary to bring Vowles onto the radio to address the matter.

Lap: 32/57 SAR: 1’28.230
Sargeant I’m not doing well, mate. Fucking hell.
Jego Can you [unclear]?
Lap: 33/57 SAR: 1’28.804
Vowles Logan, you’ve fought a brave day, but let’s bring it in and call it a day. Let’s look after you.
Sargeant James, I promise you I can do this.
Vowles Alright, I’ll leave it to you, buddy.
Sargeant You have my word.
Vowles Okay.

Sargeant continued, but on lap 39 he finally gained a place as Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg pitted. But he still felt unwell.

Lap: 38/57 SAR: 1’28.976
Jego Feedback on flap, please
Sargeant Minus one. Minus one.
Lap: 39/57 SAR: 1’29.587
Sargeant I don’t feel well, man.
Jego Are your retiring, mate? Are you retiring? Please confirm.
Sargeant I don’t know.
Jego If you’re feeling unwell, you retire. Your call, buddy. Doing opposite to Hulkenberg otherwise, opposite to Hulkenberg otherwise.

Bottas pitted and emerged just in front of Sargeant, but the focus was on Hulkenberg behind and whether he would try to undercut later on to try to get back past. A well-timed third stop (since that strategy was mandated by the FIA for the race) and Safety Car period could have earned Sargeant or Hulkenberg a strong result, but Sargeant retired on lap 40.

Lap: 40/57 SAR: 1’51.661
Jego Racing Bottas on pit exit. You’re the one making the call if you want to retire or not, Logan. There’s no shame in retiring if you’re feeling unwell.
Sargeant Yeah, I need to stop.
Sargeant I’m stopping. I’m stopping.
Jego Okay. Okay. Okay. We will stop. Box, box, retiring the car. Watch out for Stroll behind you, he’s racing.
Sargeant I have no mirrors.

There was a scary moment as Sargeant slowed significantly on the entry to a corner as he trundled back to the pits and Magnussen very nearly made high-speed contact with him as he rushed past. It prompted Jego to check Sargeant was still fully alert in the car:

Jego Stroll behind you is racing, watch out. Box, box. Gap to Magnussen behind racing is good, eight seconds.
Jego Are you okay? Are you okay?
Jego So just park the car on the right hand side [inaudible] if you’re unwell. Watch out for Verstappen, Verstappen just behind you. Verstappen just behind you.
Jego Okay. Retiring the car, retiring the car.
Lap: 41/57 SAR:
Jego Okay just stop in the garage, stop in the garage.

Sargeant finished his race with one final radio message.

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Sargeant I’m so sorry man. Argh!
Jego It’s okay. It’s okay. That happens. People can be sick. No shame.

Albon also attempted to overcut rivals with his strategy, and spent several laps in second place before making his first pit stop. But he ended up a lapped 13th, suggesting Sargeant would have been unlikely to score even if strategy had played into Williams’ hands.

After 17 grands prix this year, there have been 15 instances where Albon has been the lead Williams driver in the race and he has picked up 23 points to Sargeant’s zero, single-handedly putting Williams seventh in the constructors’ standings, on course for their best season since 2017.

Vowles’ radio messages and conversations with media in Qatar showed the team is fully behind Sargeant. But Williams is not blind to the fact in the cost cap era that they need more prize money from a higher position in the constructors’ standings and less money spent on car repair bills.

Amid the pressure of the need to finally deliver some points, it’s not hard to see why Sargeant plugged on for lap after lap as his condition deteriorated. Having had two weeks to get back to full strength, he now faces an intense burst of five races in six weekend to justify Williams’ faith in him.

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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...

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7 comments on “Analysis: Sargeant’s Qatar radio reveals his painful struggle to end point-less run”

  1. I don’t think we can criticise Sargeant for retiring the car. It was obvious he had the team’s full support to do so, and obvious that he really wanted to carry on if at all possible. If anything he should have stopped sooner as that final lap after he said he would stop was very erratic and borderline dangerous.

    However the issue of his performance is separate. The pattern early in the season was that he would make one little mistake that compromised his result. But since the summer, those mistakes have got bigger and more frequent. He is getting worse, not better.

    He seems like a nice guy, but there isn’t a convincing driving reason for him to keep the seat in 2024. If he stays, it will be because of money.

    1. You really think Williams promoted him & or would let him continue because of money even though he isn’t a so-called pay driver like his predecessor was & the team specifically stated before that they aren’t reliant on sponsor money from drivers anymore.

      1. Even so, he isn’t doing much better than latifi, is he? At some point it seems clear if the driver you hired can be competitive or not, but I believe a pay driver would be as fast as sargeant (hence an upgrade) and so would a non pay driver, for example lawson.

      2. In the end I meant a non pay driver like lawson would be faster ofc.

  2. RandomMallard
    19th October 2023, 15:05

    Having been pretty ill myself for the last 2.5 weeks, I can fully sympathise with Sargeant calling it a day in Qatar. Can’t imagine driving an F1 car when feeling even just a bit ill to be honest. And I think it’s a shame for Logan, because he seems to have the right determination and attitude to try and be successful (unlike a certain other North American driver in a Mercedes powered outlet…), and it just isn’t working out for him.

    Obviously he’s still got 5 races to prove himself, and I really would like to see him doing well, but based off what I’ve seen so far, as nice of a guy as Logan seems, I really don’t see why he should be in F1 while someone like Drugovich, Lawson, or this season’s F2 champion (or runner-up to be fair) has to wait on the sidelines…

  3. Its a tricky one for Williams. Is there a promising rookie in F2 who has the right ties to be able to get the Williams seat? If no, a 2nd year Logan might be a decent bet for 2024.

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