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Formula 1

A last-gasp bid to save an F1 career is being stunted

by Josh Suttill
6 min read

Trying to save your Formula 1 career when it’s teetering on the edge of ending is never easy.

When every week brings fresh news of who might replace you, either for next year or even for next weekend, it can be hard to block out the noise. No matter what a driver says, the threat of losing what you’ve spent your whole life chasing is a huge weight on your shoulders.

So fighting that battle when you don’t have the same specification of car as your team-mate - the greatest barometer of merit in F1 - makes your situation borderline unsalvageable.

That’s the position Logan Sargeant has found himself in at Williams on multiple weekends in 2024.

Of course the most striking spec difference came in Australia when the difference was that Albon had a car and Sargeant didn’t on Saturday and Sunday.

But some of the spec differences since then have been just as hard to swallow, such as in Monaco last weekend where Sargeant had a 2023-spec Monaco rear wing and was still on a heavier, older floor than Albon.

That’s a damning indictment of Williams’s spare parts situation and the toll a brutal winter - and early-season crash streak - has had on the team.

It’s left most weekends so far as a consistent race against time for the outfit to produce two competitive cars with enough spare parts.

On Thursday in Monaco Sargeant referred to “moving parts”, which means the spec difference between his car and Albon’s isn’t always confirmed until qualifying day.

“I would be lying if I said it was ideal,” Sargeant said of not knowing what spec his car will be until Saturday.

“We actually had a very similar Friday here last year. And ultimately, we were still in a decent place come Saturday, even with components being changed.

“So I think we can manage it, we’re able to adapt and figure things out pretty quickly.”

Sargeant did manage it the best he could with a qualifying effort he was proud of, even if it was only good enough for 17th, a tenth and a half adrift of Q2.

But compared to Albon reaching Q3 it was another overwhelming intra-team defeat.

“I think I drove well all weekend to be honest. Just sort of trying to motivate all the guys on my side of the garage who have worked so hard,” Sargeant said on Saturday.

“And I feel like we did a good job, I feel like for the package we have we put the set-up in the right place, and I feel like I delivered in qualifying. So unfortunate to not be able to get through to Q2, but I feel like that was pretty much all that was in it.”

While Albon converted ninth on the grid into the same result in the race on Sunday, to earn Williams its first points of 2024, Sargeant had a largely miserable run to 15th place - livened up only by an overtake on Zhou Guanyu, the only the driver he beat to the finish line in a Sauber that was clearly the slowest car in Monaco.

His tyre degradation “went a way we weren’t expecting” and that left Sargeant the victim of some of Monaco’s few 2024 overtakes.

Sargeant said the 2023 rear wing “made a huge difference” and he’d have been through to Q2 without that spec discrepancy. The updated rear wing on Albon’s car was crucial to controlling the rear tyres, something Williams has struggled with at Monaco in recent years.

Sargeant’s still without the lighter floor that debuted on Albon’s car at Imola and is a crucial first step in the team tackling its overweight FW46 - which has been losing around 0.45s a lap on average due to it being 15kg over the weight limit.

When asked if Monaco would be his last weekend with an older spec FW46, Sargeant said: “I hope so. But honestly I don't know. I'll have to talk to the team and see where we're at. But yeah haven't got that far.”

Albon’s Melbourne FP1 crash, Sargeant’s Suzuka FP1 shunt, Albon being sent into the wall on the opening lap at Suzuka and Kevin Magnussen crashing with Sargeant in Miami have taken an enormous toll on the team.

Sargeant has borne the brunt of that. And as brutal as that is for a driver who’s fighting for his F1 career, it’s ultimately self-inflicted.

Albon smashed Sargeant 23-0 in qualifying last year and with 2024 so far feeling like a continuation of that, it’s understandable that Williams is prioritising the driver who has the best chance of delivering points, as Albon did in Monaco.

Ultimately, Sargeant could have prevented this scenario with a more convincing rookie year and with a stronger step between the end of 2023 and the start of 2024.

He continues to show flashes of speed but he still strings it together so rarely that Albon’s grand prix qualifying advantage is up to 30-0.

That’s simply not good enough for a Williams team that is moving forward and is fighting in that close scrap at the back of the field with Sauber, Alpine, Haas and a fast-escaping RB team.

So it’s no surprise that the likes of Carlos Sainz, Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas have all been touted as Albon’s 2025 team-mate, while Sargeant’s barely had a mention.

Sargeant’s Williams future has long moved out of his hands but there’s more at stake than simply just retaining his drive.

Doing that for 2025 looks highly unlikely. It would require an even more extreme version of the driver market fortune that kept him in the seat for 2024 or a sudden upturn in his conversion rate from practice promise to qualifying and race results.

But Sargeant can warn off the tempting prospect of a mid-season switch with Mercedes potentially seeing a half-season at Williams as the perfect preparation for its protege Kimi Antonelli before his likely 2025 graduation to Mercedes.

Yes, there would be no long-term benefit to that for Williams if Mercedes is going to have him for 2025, but nor is there much long-term benefit in keeping Sargeant.

It’s only a question of who will provide the greatest chance of a competitive second Williams and based on his career so far, Antonelli has by far the higher ceiling even if he’s still incredibly raw. Sargeant can't win the long-term debate but he can prove he's the better short-term option.

Beyond keeping his Williams drive, there’s also the pitch to be the go-to reserve driver for 2025 should he lose his current employment, whether that be at Williams or elsewhere.

The current state of silly season might produce at least three job-less 2024 F1 drivers in Zhou, Kevin Magnussen and Sargeant, and all three could be sought-after reserve drivers given how limited the pool is of contract-less drivers with experience in this generation of F1 car.

Magnussen probably has the most ‘plug in and play’ attractiveness of the trio but Sargeant can further his case to be, at the very least, the second-most in-demand axed driver ahead of Zhou.

And of course it’s also a case of advertising yourself to those outside of F1. No current F1 driver wants to think about that while racing in F1, but Sargeant is still a Formula 2 race winner and finished four points shy of Oscar Piastri in their duel for the 2020 F3 crown.

He does have plenty to offer a team in a top-line motorsport series and he’s still in the window of motorsport’s most popular shop.

So no matter how long his spec-difference strife continues, all Sargeant can do is perform the best he can with the machinery in his hands - with the occasional reminder that he’s not on equal footing with Albon.

For now, at least he is still one of only 20 drivers in the world who can showcase his talents and ensure he wrings everything left out of his wilting F1 opportunity.

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