Williams team principal James Vowles says he overlooked Logan Sargeant’s potential earlier in his career, after impressing the team on his Formula 1 debut.
Sargeant came within a thousandth of a second of reaching Q2 on his debut in the Bahrain Grand Prix, then raced to 12th. His second weekend proved more challenging: A track limits error was among several mistakes which meant he was slowest in qualifying, after lapping close to team mate Alexander Albon’s pace, but Sargeant made it up to 10th in the first stint of the race before finishing a distant 16th.
Vowles, who took over as Williams team principal during the off-season, said he’d seen Sargeant’s F1 potential when testing for the new season began.
“From the first laps of testing immediately you could see that the pace was there,” said Vowles on Friday in Saudi Arabia.
“I was a little bit reticent in wondering whether it would take him a little bit of time to get used to it. The second aspect is, [Bahrain was] his first grand prix. The pressure on your shoulders is enormous and he took it in his stride.
“He was three-wide through turn one. Normally in your rookie race, that ends up in disaster and he just dealt with it, with enormous amounts of maturity. From then onwards, and I’m sure as you’ll see, throughout the year, he’ll step forward.”
Sargeant’s feedback has been “very good,” said Vowles. “He has this young, fiery passion that comes with things. He wants every millisecond you can out the car.”
Vowles said he was first impressed by Sargeant when the pair worked together at Mercedes during Sargeant’s junior single-seater career, and compared him favourably to McLaren’s highly-rated 2023 newcomer Oscar Piastri.
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“My path with Logan actually crossed several years [ago]. He came to Mercedes as a simulator evaluation [driver] and I was interested in looking at him because he had performance, especially when you go back to his Formula 3 performance in an average team. He was there with Oscar and I rate Oscar also highly.
“At the time in Mercedes we had a good suite of drivers, so that was where my relationship with him ended. Then, prior to me arriving at Williams, Williams funded – it’s very important to state this – his Formula 2 career, so he is now salaried as a professional driver. Williams funded him because they had deep belief that he was the real deal.”
Sargeant and Piastri first raced against each other in Formula 4 United Arab Emirates, where the future Williams driver enjoyed better results, but Piastri held the upper hand when the pair raced each other in British F4. As they stepped up to Formula Renault 2.0 together, Sargeant was with a stronger team and therefore performed better during their first year in continental competition.
When he reached F3, Sargeant could only find a seat at a struggling Carlin team, so did not show his true pace in that championship until his second season in which he was pipped to the title by Prema team mate Piastri.
A planned move to the American single-seater scene did not come to fruition for 2021 and Sargeant received a career lifeline to remain in F3 as effectively a paid driver with a backmarker team. An impressive run to seventh in the standings earned Sargeant his place in Williams’ Driver Academy and an F2 seat for 2022.
“My reticence came from the fact that prior to that [F2 season] it’s difficult to really judge him,” Vowles continued.
“But I have to say, he’s now been in the car, I now have the ability to look at his data, and he is here on merit. As a result of Williams investing correctly in him, he’s now a professional driver [and] deserving driver on the grid at the same time. So it just shows you that my previous life I was wrong and Williams were right.”
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