Why have Williams kept the faith in Sargeant after heavy defeat to Albon?

2023 F1 team mates head-to-head

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The data makes it inescapably clear just how tough a season Logan Sargeant had on his Formula 1 debut with Williams in 2023.

Last year, as he concluded his single season in Formula 2, Williams gave Sargeant a string of practice outings in order to pick up extra FIA superlicence points in order to ensure he would qualify to race in the top flight. That turned out to be unnecessary thanks to his finishing position in the top feeder series to F1.

Nonetheless, he had a difficult first year in the world championship, and the numbers below make grim reading. Not once did he out-qualify his team mate Alexander Albon, nor take the chequered flag ahead of him on merit.

We’ve seen team mate head-to-heads as bad as this in the past. But the driver on the winning side has usually been one of the sport’s top stars, as in the case of Fernando Alonso when he smashed Stoffel Vandoorne in 2018, or Max Verstappen when he beat Albon himself three years ago.

This time, however, it was Albon who dished out the beating, including a perfect score in qualifying against his younger team mate, just as he was on the receiving end of in 2020.

Some teams might not have let Sargeant see the season out with results like this. But Williams have persevered with him, and for reasons beyond the obvious marketing appeal to an American-owned team in an American-owned sport having an American driver.

Team principal James Vowles has made it clear he believes in the team’s young driver programme and is keen to give Sargeant a chance to prove himself. He knows just how difficult it is for new drivers to make the leap up into F1 due to the lack of testing opportunities.

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Sargeant makes an interesting comparison to his fellow 2023 rookies. Nyck de Vries had comparatively few testing opportunities last year and was given the boot by Red Bull and AlphaTauri before the halfway point in the season. Oscar Piastri had multiple private testing sessions with pre-2022 cars with Alpine, which clearly helped him when he returned to tracks like Losail, which he would otherwise have been unfamiliar with.

However Sargeant did show genuine potential. His race pace was often reasonable, though hamstrung by poor starting positions.

Although his qualifying was clearly not on par with Albon’s, he got close at times, and showed potential to do better when he didn’t transgress track limits – as at the season finale – or crash. He also showed improvement in the later part of the season, with his Las Vegas performance to back up Albon with a Q3 appearance in qualifying an example of that.

The upshot of that was he contributed only a single point to Williams’ haul at the end of the year. Had AlphaTauri pipped them to seventh in the championship, which was a serious threat, the points lost by Sargeant would have been a significant factor. He played his role in the finale by containing Daniel Ricciardo and thwarting his bid to reach the top 10.

Even taking those points in Sargeant’s favour, his failure to hold a candle to Albon throughout 2023 is something he must rectify next season. No doubt Williams will be waiting for clear signs of him putting the experience he gained this year to good use.

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Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Negative value: Sargeant was faster; Positive value: Albon was faster

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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34 comments on “Why have Williams kept the faith in Sargeant after heavy defeat to Albon?”

  1. Hah, I saw the previous article and thought “why?” and then this gets posted, thanks!

    1. But even after reading this article I ask myself “why?”.

      1. Yup. This doesn’t answer anything. Poor article.

        1. actually seeing this article they should had dropped him

  2. Even when walking, Albon continues to measure the gap between them

    1. BRAVO
      *standing ovation and applause*

  3. I’m think there’s an argument to be made that the modern system of driver academies is now stifling talent rather than promoting it. Junior drivers now are tied down with an F1 team sometimes from a very young age, and more often than not, they run out of time in the junior categories before their specific team is ready to promote them to their team (or a customer team if they’re a major manufacturer). Drugovich for example, fresh from dominating his F2 field, is set to spend a second year on the sidelines watching the boss’ son wreck every other race while getting absolutely thrashed by his team mate (who isn’t exactly a spring chicken), all while seats like Sargeant’s are taken up by loyalty to the program. Meanwhile the Alpine Academy is such a dysfunctional mess that their starlet jumped ship before they could give him a chance with them, even after spending a year out of racing.

    As much as Sargeant is in that seat for the publicity of having an American driver, I have often been wondering if a large part of the reason is actually to show that the Williams Academy is doing something, and whether they’re worried that kicking out Sargeant so soon would make their Academy into a bit of a joke.

    The RB program is perhaps the exception, but this is in part solely down to the sheer ruthlessness of the management, which in itself carries its own problems.

    I’ll be honest, I don’t think I have a conclusive opinion on this matter, these were just some interesting thoughts I’d had.

    1. Random Mallard, those are some great points which give plenty of food for thought.

    2. I would suggest racing for Manor was not a “real” opportunity to show your talent in F1.

      When you look how.l close Oscar is to Lando, Hamilton was to Alonso, the waves Max made in his rookie year, etc. I think we can say Logan is not in there class. Liam, Vesti, Drugovich would be my choices….

    3. I don’t think the driver academies are the problem particularly. I think with so few vacancies in F1 (only 20 seats, lack of testing opportunities etc) you would still see the same problems with capable drivers not being able to get a seat. The bottleneck at the top is the problem that won’t go away while the F1 teams refuse to countenance any further competition.

      The issue really is that you can’t win an F1 seat through your F3 or F2 performances, but you can lose one. If you have the potential to be an F1 driver, it’ll have been decided long before you get to F3, probably while you’re still in karting or F4-level single seaters.

    4. Coventry Climax
      3rd December 2023, 14:02

      I think your points are valid enough, RandomMallard.

      But I think there’s yet another aspect to it: Rules changes.
      Last season, we didn’t see al that many rookies coming in, possibly because teams wanted to have a reference point to evaluate their cars by, and with the cars being completely new, retaining drivers was that only reference option. That may well even have trickled into what is only the second year of the repeat ground effect era, and possibly even into this third year’s.
      Just consider how at an utter loss Mercedes would have been with their concept retained for this second season having two new drivers to evaluate that. (Especially since to my opinion, they’re still quite a bit at a loss even now, with Hamilton just sending random pictures of other team’s cars to the Mercedes engineering department.)

      1. Coventry Climax
        3rd December 2023, 14:15

        Before I’m confusing people:
        .. into what was only the second year of the repeat ground effect era, and possibly even into this coming third year’s.

  4. this is James isn’t it. He will have ze data from the simulator! It must say that Logan has the timing and muscle control, so then the rest can come with practice and experience, which Logan is seriously short of

    1. Yes – the same James who kept telling Bottas to pull over and let Hamilton through.

  5. Is there a guaranteed improvement out there for the same price? I doubt that. Second and last chance for him next year. I’d have done the same.

    1. I think that all the drivers of the last decade who lost their seat (maybe excluding Latifi) would be an (all by guaranteed) improvement.

      1. notagrumpyfan, you’re claiming that any driver from 2013 through to 2023, apart from Latifi, would have been a guaranteed improvement?

        That’s a rather bold claim – are you claiming that Max Chilton, Roberto Merhi, Pastor Maldonado or Rio Haryanto, to pick a few examples of drivers who left the sport during that period, would be “a guaranteed improvement”?

    2. I’m hopeful that Williams will be looking to slot Zak O’Sullivan into Sargeant’s seat after a year in F2, but that is definitely more of a hope than an expectation.

  6. Albon right after beating Sargeant: “I’m ready to be world champion”.
    (And, what’s with American drivers and their ridiculous names?)

    1. Scott Speed Sargeant. I’m American and have hated every American F1 driver.

      Keeping Logan is a huge waste of an F1 seat.

      1. Agree, and we’ll be able to see whether williams did well or not by renewing his contract by mid season the latest.

        1. We already know. You don’t get to this kind of one-sided domination with a driver “that just didn’t have time to unlock his potential.”

          Look at the good rookies of the past decades compared to the ones that got second chances and sometimes even third chances before finally getting the boot. It’s. It going to happen for Logan.

          1. It’s not going to happen for Logan*

          2. That’s the annoying one. There’s NEVER been a top star who wasn’t impressive in his rookie season let alone god awful.

      2. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
        2nd December 2023, 9:55

        I think Rossi would have been decent if he had another option over manor.

        1. He was also wasn’t embarrassing as a person.

  7. This is basically the equivalent of teams keeping on a Japanese driver to please their engine supplier, etc. Williams knows that the American market is huge and they have the monopoly on American drivers at the moment. It’s good marketing for them, and that is pprobably worth more than the handful of points they may score if they take on a new rookie. I can’t see Logan improving enough to challenge Albon, but if he manages a couple of points then that’s just icing. Plus they have to make their driver academy look meaningful. I’m not happy about it, but I guess it’s the ‘right’ business decision. Not sure SFW would have done the same though…

    1. I don’t think Logan is really pulling that many people from the states. I think a guy like Lewis Hamilton probably pulls more interest. Anyways, the states/US has a much different ‘racing’ scene, its nothing like Europe, so lots of people don’t really even know it exists, except for things like NASCAR, etc… Or for peeps who play video games like Gran Turismo and wonder where those crazy looking cars come from.

      Logan has strong backing, just like Lance, and I am sure his parents are happy enough to give him a shot at what could be an interesting launch on life, if he can keep up. I think the demographics appeal, US market, I think its’ kind of overstated. Even still, even if it is stronger than it was in the past. I just hope Williams can pull themselves in to better terms with sponsors so there other drivers get enough money to get by.

      1. Indeed. I haven’t seen a single country attracted to F1 just because a poorly performing driver from their home country is in the sport. Heck, even Yuki doesn’t have a particularly strong fan base in F1 crazy Japan. They support him, but he certainly doesn’t seem to be anyone’s favorite driver there.

  8. I’m sure he brings a lot more money than Williams would care to let on. There was no real performance reason to bring him in to F1 so quickly, and no real performance reason for keeping him in F1 for more than 1 season.

    The nationality question doesn’t really matter because I don’t think any Americans actually realise he is in the sport.

    Seems like a nice guy though.

    1. I don’t think he brings any money.

      1. He does, probably just enough to keep Williams interested. I hope next year hes more on the ball and hes working out hard to catch up with the rest of the guys, so his fitness is good to go. Fitness is so important when it comes to keeping your head in a fight. And its always cool to see someone better themselves.

        1. I’d also like to see him succeed. Like many have noted, he seems like a nice kid.

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