Logan Sargeant’s F1 future may hinge on the Las Vegas Grand Prix

With the 2023 Formula 1 season winding down, many teams are starting to turn their attention to the 2024 campaign. That includes Red Bull, as Team Principal Christian Horner has already indicated that the 2023 champions have begun to focus on developing their challenger for the 2024 season.

Yet for one team, they still need to sort out their driver lineup for next season. While 19 of the 20 spots for next year are locked down, one spot remains: The seat at Williams alongside Alexander Albon.

The current occupant of that seat? Rookie American driver Logan Sargeant. Sargeant joined the team’s driver academy in October of 2021, and made his Formula 2 debut shortly thereafter for HWA Racelab in the penultimate F2 stop of the season, the set of races in Saudi Arabia.

Sargeant finished 16th in the first sprint race, retired from the second sprint race due to a mechanical failure, and then finished the feature race in P14.

Sargeant was then given a spot with Carlin for the 2022 F2 season, and got off to a very strong start to the year. He scored points in 14 of the first 17 races that year, including a pair of wins at Silverstone and Red Bull Ring. That win in Austria saw Sargeant climb to second in the Drivers’ Standings behind Felipe Drugovich, the current reserve driver at Aston Martin.

In addition, Sargeant was 55 points ahead of his teammate, current Red Bull and AlphaTauri reserve driver Liam Lawson.

However, that win at Red Bull Ring would the high point of his season, as Sargeant had five retirements down the stretch. He ultimately finished fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, behind Drugovich, Théo Pourchaire, and Lawson.

Sargeant made his F1 debut for Williams at the 2022 United States Grand Prix, participating in practice and becoming the first American driver to take part in an F1 weekend since Alexander Rossi back in 2015. It was at that time that Williams, through then-Team Principal Jost Capito, confirmed that Sargeant would be in their driver lineup for the 2023 season provided he secured enough Super License points to qualify for a F1 spot.

With his fourth-place finish in the F2 standings, the spot was his.

But his rookie campaign has been a rocky affair. Sargeant was one of three rookie drivers at the start of the season, along with Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri and Oscar Piastri at McLaren. Piastri has enjoyed a tremendous rookie campaign, and the Australian driver currently sits ninth in the Drivers’ standings. While De Vries was sacked midseason before he was able to score a single point, he was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo at AlphaTauri.

When Ricciardo suffered a broken bone in his hand ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix, Lawson stepped into his spot, In just five starts, Lawson scored a pair of points, thanks to a P9 at the Singapore Grand Prix.

As for Sargeant, his first — and to date only — F1 point came back at the United States Grand Prix. He finished in P12 in the race, but when both Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were disqualified following post-race inspections, he along was Albon was promoted into the top ten, with Sargeant in tenth.

While the United States Grand Prix represented a high point for his season, there have been some lows. Take the Dutch Grand Prix, where he advanced to Q3 for the first time in his F1 career. That was immediately overshadowed by a moment of heartbreak, such as his subsequent crash in Q3 at Zandvoort which saw him start the Grand Prix in tenth place.

He then retired on Lap 14 in the Grand Prix, after he crashed into the barrier after a hydraulics failure.

Whether Sargeant ultimately secures that second seat may come down to his performance in Las Vegas. Williams, and their FW45, has been particularly strong at high-speed tracks this season like Monza. Albon, for example, pointed to Vegas as potential fertile ground for the team following his finish at the Temple of Speed.

“We needed that, because I don’t think the next few races, we’re not really going to stand a chance until Vegas,” said Albon after his seventh-place finish at Monza.

Las Vegas is expected to be a very fast circuit, and if the FW45 performs in Sin City as expected, that could have Sargeant and Williams on the front foot next week.

Which could be huge for Sargeant’s chances at locking down that spot.

Let’s look at some data to highlight how strong the FW45 has been at high-speed tracks, and how impressive the Williams challenger has been with its straight-line speed. Thanks to F1-Tempo, we can look at some results from the Belgian Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen won while the Williams duo finished out of the points.

But looking at Verstappen’s best lap (Lap 32) in comparison to Albon’s best lap (Lap 35) you see that the Williams was actually faster on the Kemmel Straight, the long run from Turn 1 all the way to Les Combes, the twisty section made up of Turns 7, 8, and 9:

Screenshot 2023 11 07 at 10.18.39 AM

(Albon is in the light blue while Verstappen is depicted by the darker blue).

Remember, Verstappen won this race while Albon finished in P14. But the FW45 was very strong on the straights at Spa.

Or take the Italian Grand Prix, where Albon finished seventh, behind another Verstappen win. Again, looking at the data from F1-Tempo, the FW45 held its own with the RB19 on the straights. Albon is in silver, while Verstappen is in the gold:

Screenshot 2023 11 07 at 10.22.45 AM

Why might this matter for Sargeant? It starts with the track in Las Vegas:

Screenshot 2023 11 06 at 6.18.57 PM

That … is a lot of straights. Lots of opportunities for Williams and the FW45 to flex their straight-line speed.

And lots of opportunities for Sargeant to put that straight-line speed to good use.

The other thing that Sargeant has going for him as he looks to secure his spot next year? Team Principal James Vowles. The new Williams boss has stressed patience throughout the year, dating back to the Monaco Grand Prix.

“We’re in a position that we can break what we have in existence, and rebuild it from the foundations, ground-up, into a solid mechanism. We have finance, we have investment,” the Williams team principal said ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. “And we have the willingness and desire to even compromise this year and next as needed and as required in order to make sure that we make the jump back forward of the field. And that’s a tougher decision if you’re racing for fifth, or sixth in the championship. Much easier when you’re Williams.”

At the end of September, and ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix, Vowles gave Sargeant a big vote of confidence:

That came after Sargeant had a big crash at the Japanese Grand Prix, which saw Sargeant retire after collision damage. Sargeant also retired in the next race, the Qatar Grand Prix, due to dehydration, which was an issue for almost the entire grid as the race was run in difficult conditions.

But Sargeant followed those two retirements with his first F1 points. Then this past Sunday, he put together a fairly strong drive that saw him finish in P11, on the cusp of his second points finish in his F1 career.

“Logan had a cleaner race and used the safety car and red flag period to effectively run the entire race on soft compound [tires],” said Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams following the São Paulo Grand Prix. “He raced well with the Alfa Romeos before they both retired and with further retirements was able to finish in P11 whilst controlling his pace to stay ahead of [Nico] Hülkenberg.”

The final thing that Sargeant has going for him?

Las Vegas represents his third home race of the season.

Could it be the spot where he finally locks up his seat for next year?

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