ANALYSIS: Why Williams promoted American Sargeant to a race seat in 2023
Logan Sargeant became the 20th and final driver to be confirmed on the 2023 grid after Williams announced the American had earned promotion from their academy to race alongside Alex Albon. F1 Correspondent Lawrence Barretto explains how it came about.
Sargeant impresses Williams with F2 performance
Williams chose last year’s United States Grand Prix in Austin to announce they had recruited American Sargeant to their Driver Academy, giving him his first taste of F1 machinery at the post-season test.
He impressed the team with the way he fully embedded himself in the Formula 1 operation, spent plenty of time at the factory, fully engaged with the engineers and mechanics and showed good form on the simulator.
It was then his performance in the July suite of races in F2 this year that really elevated him in Williams senior management’s thinking. The 21-year-old was super strong at Silverstone, becoming the first American to win an F2 Feature Race.
He followed that up a week later with victory in Austria. While his season became scrappier thereafter, he held on to P3 in the drivers’ standings, putting him in fine shape to achieve the required Super Licence points to make him available to Williams.
In a bid to help his prospects, Williams ran him in four successive FP1 sessions from Austin. That allowed him to accrue a Super Licence point every time he completed 100km in a single session. As a result, he needed a top-six finish in the standings after the final event in Abu Dhabi to get the job done.
In those sessions, Sargeant prepared well, got up to speed quickly and delivered the programme Williams required, only serving to confirm to boss Jost Capito that he was the driver he wanted in the car next year.
Williams keen to promote youth
When it became clear Nicholas Latifi wasn’t the driver Williams wanted to continue with beyond the end of this season Sargeant was immediately put on the list of replacements, though admittedly not at the top.
In an ideal world, Sargeant would have done a second year in F2 – and won the championship – before earning promotion to Williams in 2024 or at the latest 2025.
In the meantime, Oscar Piastri was an option – but that option disappeared in July, at the same time Sargeant massively upped his game with those two F2 wins.
Still, it was Williams’ preference to get him more experience in F2 and they soon turned their attention to Nyck de Vries after his stunning substitute performance in Monza where he scored points on his F1 debut.
I understand they offered De Vries a deal, but the Dutchman went for AlphaTauri, the lure of Red Bull and the potential of works drive if he smashed it out of the park too hard to turn down.
It was then that Sargeant emerged as favourite, the American well on his way to securing a position good enough in F2 to secure the points required to qualify for a licence, so Williams upped his development programme and heavily embedded him in the team.
The team didn’t look at any other juniors – such as F2 champion Felipe Drugovich – because it is important for Williams to promote from within. They wanted to set a precedent.
They are aware that some drivers have committed to driver academies of rival teams and then been overlooked for promotion, forcing them to look elsewhere.
In promoting Sargeant, it makes their junior programme – which they are looking to expand and invest in going forward, including running a proper old-car programme to give drivers vital experience with F1 machinery – an attractive one for future stars.
It helps, too, that he is American, which can only be a good thing as F1 continues to expand its reach Stateside. He’ll get not one, not two but three home races next year and be competing for a team run by American owners in Dorilton.
But ultimately, Capito says they made the decision based on pure performance – and they are convinced that from what they’ve seen in F2 and when they’ve run him in F1, he deserves a race seat.