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Vowles admits Sargeant’s mistake for FP1 crash was ‘frustrating’ but insists confidence not the issue in Japan

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Logan Sargeant of United States and Williams climbs from his car after

Williams team boss James Vowles has insisted that Logan Sargeant's heavy crash during FP1 in Japan was just a mistake and not a symptom of a dip in confidence.

The American sat out the last race in Australia, after the team made the difficult call to give his chassis to Alex Albon. That was despite Albon causing the damage to the other chassis – with the team feeling the Thai driver was their best chance of points.

READ MORE: Verstappen expects ‘closer’ challenge from rivals despite 'good start' for Red Bull at Suzuka

For a driver just starting out in their sophomore year in F1, that call left many wondering if it would have a significant blow on his confidence, but Vowles said on Friday that was simply not the case.

2024 Japanese GP FP1: Sargeant crash brings out the red flags in first practice at Suzuka

“I've been chatting to him all week, all these last few weeks, in fact, because this is the point where you've got to keep a driver very close to you,” Vowles said. “You've sort of given them a very difficult situation to deal with, through no fault of their own.

“But he was honestly in a very good state of mind this week and last night again when I called him at about 9, 10pm, really, really strong state of mind, just wanted to get back into the car and get going, but not with the intention of proving to the world he deserves a seat, just his normal approach to things.”

HIGHLIGHTS: All the action from a rain-hit second practice session in Japan

Sargeant had just bolted on the soft tyres when he had his accident, dipping a wheel on the grass which was more than enough at high speed to see him slide off the track, across the gravel and into the barriers. His front wing made the initial hit before he span round to catch the tyre wall again with the rear of his car – causing considerable damage.

“The extent of the damage, it’s enormous,” confirmed Vowles. “Floor, front wing, all suspension, gearbox cracked as well.”

However, from a Williams perspective, the chassis was at least okay with the team still without a spare, and they expect to remain so until Miami.

Vowles explains ‘enormous’ damage to Sargeant’s Williams after FP1 crash

“In terms of what happened, he’d done a number of laps prior to that point,” Vowles continued. “Suzuka is unforgiving, when you move just a few centimetres offline, it’s not that you run wide, you crash, fundamentally. In terms of this particular circumstance, he put a wheel on the grass and the rest is history.

“In terms of why he was there, he didn’t quite have the visibility – it’s the brow of a hill and he didn’t quite realise where the car was… What you saw here wasn't a driver making a mistake because I think they were pushing to the limit. It's a very different type of mistake, a frustrating one by all accounts, because it wasn't on the limit of what the car could do.

READ MORE: Hamilton hails ‘best session of the year’ for Mercedes in Japan as Russell admits pace was a ‘pleasant surprise’

“There was far more turning potential in there. He just didn't know where the car was on track relative to where he expected it to be anyway. So, I don't think you're seeing there the reaction of someone that wasn't driving in Melbourne. I think you're seeing more just a situation that could have appeared at any time.”

Sargeant’s car is expected to be ready for FP3 tomorrow, and with the weather intervening he didn’t wind up missing as much track time as he might have done.

But no matter what his boss says about his confidence, the American is still set for a tricky weekend. With no third chassis, both he and his team mate know they will have to be mindful of any more mistakes.

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