Logan Sargeant spent 22 races to prove that he is not made to be a Formula 1 driver, and while Williams mollycoddles him it would be a slight in James Vowles’ leadership if they do retain him for the 2024 season.
Harsh words for a harsh reality that is not as bad as it actually sounds. F1 is for 20 of the world’s best drivers or those with potential. And 100% credit to Sargeant for making his way to the pinnacle of the sport.
Any driver that makes it that far deserves huge respect, simply because the journey there is so packed with pressure, challenges and many, many very, very good race drivers. To emerge into an F1 seat, as the 22-year-old American did demands our admiration.
But once in F1, there is nowhere to hide from day one, at a time when it is arguably tougher for rookies to make the jump from the lower series to the top tier. Limited testing and less practice time on race weekends, compared to the past, plus the added (modern) demands of media and sponsors make it daunting for newcomers.
But in the end, at the end of the season, Sargeant like all other drivers must be judged, with a few simple questions asked: Did Logan improve as a driver? Will he get better, fast? Can he match Max Verstappen one day?
The Red Bull triple F1 World Champion is the benchmark for all other race drivers on the planet. And if not him, Sargeant’s teammate Alex Albon, a driver once crushed by Verstappen, is rejuvenated at Williams and a much-improved class act.
Stats show Sargeant was destroyed by Albon at Williams
In a sport where a driver’s first order of business is to beat his teammate, do so comprehensively, and relentlessly as often as possible. In practice, qualifying and race, Albon destroyed Sargeant as F1 Stats show:
Looking back on the year, in my mind’s eye, it’s hard to recall a session where the American was better than his teammate. Granted again, Albon is a different driver. Still as fast as he ever was, but far more mature. And in a team where he is the leader, not having to chase makes a big difference.
Sargeant was chasing all year. He chased from day one, and simply just didn’t get better. F1 is not a place for rookies to develop and be developed. Sure, they’re going to progress, but they should be at a level of the great drivers who impressed from day one they sat in an F1 car.
In stark contrast, Oscar Piastri has shown how a rookie should perform the minute they sit in an F1 car. He has been outstanding. Beating more experienced Lando Norris on occasions, pushing him, running him hard all year the 22-year-old Australian improving all the time, setting the benchmark that Sargeant has not come close to touching.
If ever there were rookies that set ‘The Benchmark’ for their respective eras, it was the likes of Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel to name the more illustrious. Forget about Verstappen! He has been an alien-like phenomenon since he burst onto the F1 scene as a 17-year-old.
Rookies need to make an impact in F1 from day one and then never stop improving
Hard to believe, all of them were either unheard of at the time (Schumie) or deemed not ready by the established British media (Lewis) or not good enough for BMW (Seb) or one too young (Max) to race in F1. But they all had the magic, the touch of greatness that only a select and elite few are gifted, in any sport.
As a boomer, I have to shudder my memory to remember how Williams once was what Red Bull is now to F1, utterly dominant. They slid to an unrecognisable team it is now from the one Sir Frank and Patrick Head built into the superpower it became in the top flight.
Nevertheless, this is F1 the very top of the sport with an ocean of talent ready to step up – Felipe Drugovich for instance – among many more but denied because drivers like Sargeant are given too much time to prove they are not good enough for F1.
Williams should not think of themselves because they’re a backmarker team as a breeding ground to improve young drivers. Nicholas Latifi – who I would pick for my team before Sargeant – was a good example. He never got better.
World Champs Red Bull of course wrote ‘The Book’ on managing drivers into F1, and patience was never their forte when drivers failed their lofty performance tests. They get demoted or sent elsewhere to fly the RBR flag on their helmets, away from F1.
Sargeant was lucky to last so long ask Nyck De Vries
AlphaTauri gave highly rated Nyck de Vries the break of his life. He came, he drove, he got the boot. As quick as that, they got rid of him. Ditto many RBR drivers over the years. And their track record in turning their proteges into World Champs suggests Helmut Marko knows a thing or two about drivers.
Some argue having an American in F1 is a good thing. This is so wrong on many fronts. First, a driver should be on the grid irrespective of his nationality. Furthermore, the USA doesn’t do much not to win. They are a win-driven society. Thus Sargeant clattering into walls, and pottering around the back is counter-productive on all fronts.
As one who sees ‘messages’ in odd things, I look back on what should be Sargeant’s last season in F1 (for now) and take his race weekend in Abu Dhabi as one of those ‘messages’ that pop up. From Yas Marina’s season finale weekend consider this as a snapshot, of a failed attempt to be an F1 driver:
FP1: Sargeant P19, six-tenths down on Albon P16;
FP2: Sargeant P18, six-tenths down on Albon P16;
FP3: Sargeant P8, a quarter-second slower than Albon P4;
Q1: No Time for Sargeant. Deleted for track limits during Qualifying! <<<<THIS
Race: Sargeant P16, 14 seconds behind Albon p14
And that’s about as good as it got for Sargeant relative to Albon in the other Williams. Also, the American driver was beaten 22 times in qualy this season by his Thai counterpart, who also scored 27 of 28 points amassed by the team. Logan bagged one, enough said. Really not a decision Vowles should labour over at all.
Big Question: Does Logan Sargeant deserve another year in F1 with Williams?