Logan Sargeant is America's Latest, Greatest Hope in F1
In a very weird way, Logan Sargeant feels somewhat like a stranger in a strange land as he prepares for his first F1 Miami Grand Prix this weekend.
But Sargeant isn't in a strange land. He's on home turf, the only American-born driver on the F1 circuit this season, having grown up in nearby Fort Lauderdale. His path to F1 was one that was very quick and fast, much like his pattern behind the wheel.
At 22, he’s one of the youngest drivers the circuit has seen in quite a while. With four F1 races under his belt thus far this season, the Williams Racing pilot has had an interesting path thus far.
In his F1 debut, he finished a very promising 12th in the season-opening event at Bahrain.
But since then, Sargeant has been a man who has literally been stuck in a slump of sorts, having finished 16th in each of the following three events: Jeddah, Melbourne and Baku.
Still, for a guy who has had a lot of eyes on him globally for being the rarity of an American driver, he’s essentially held his own. He finished just one lap off the pace in Bahrain, completed all laps at both Jeddah and Baku, and was involved in a crash two laps from the finish at Melbourne.
To have finished all but three laps in the first four races is quite noteworthy, indeed.
“Ups and downs, good days, bad days, to be expected,” Sargeant said when asked to evaluate how his season has gone thus far. “I'm learning every weekend and I feel like it's coming more and more towards me.
“But yeah, I have to be more consistently at the top of my game, driving better each and every day. (I’m) definitely not satisfied. A lot of work to do, a lot to improve on but it's moving in the right direction. And that's all that matters.”
Sargeant is back on home ground for the first of what will be three times this year. F1 returns to the U.S. in October at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and in November for the first time on a street course layout in Las Vegas.
Yet even with so many races in his homeland, Sargeant still feels as if he’s in another country, preparing for just another race, rather than what has the potential to be a pressure-packed event Sunday in front of his countrymen and home nation fans.
“It's good,” Sargeant said during Thursday’s driver press conference at-track. “It was nice to get home after Baku. I was able to spend two days at home to really recharge, get out on the water (he's an avid fan of being in the Atlantic Ocean) which was nice.
“And yeah, I'm excited for this weekend. It's nice to be back in my well-known climate, which is extremely hot but it's going to be a tough weekend, not knowing the track. It's a big hurdle to climb. But yeah, I'm excited.”
Even though he now calls London, England his home during the regular season, Sargeant is a long-time fan of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, who play their home games in the same stadium that is playing host to F1 for a second straight year.
“I've watched endless games in the stadium, so to be able to race around it, to have the hospitalities set up inside the stadium is pretty cool,” Sargeant said. “I was just here at Christmas watching a game. And yeah, now here we are, first home Grand Prix. Yeah, it's pretty cool.”
Obviously, Sargeant dreams about a great finish Sunday -- maybe even pulling off a shocking win – even more so because it’s in his home country.
But with all the pressure upon him and all the eyeballs that will be evaluating his talent and ability on whether he’s a legitimate driver with a long future ahead of him in F1, Sargeant is hoping he doesn’t let the pressure get to him and that he truly is able to have a dream finish (even if it’s not a win).
“Well, I think considering not knowing the track, it's going to be a tough weekend for me,” Sargeant said. “But back to a normal format (without a sprint race on Saturday) which is nice, to get three hours to build up to it.
“I think it's going to be a pretty tight midfield, so we need to be comfortable going into qualifying and just deliver and get the job done.”
While South Florida is known as the in-season, off-season or full-time home to a number of drivers – including F1 and IndyCar drivers – home-grown drivers like Sargeant are somewhat of a rarity.
“I started racing 10 minutes down the road at Homestead Miami Speedway,” Sargeant said. “Yeah, it was really just at the time, something to do with my dad, my brother.
“Obviously, we were competitive kids and we just loved the sport, we loved the adrenaline and that just took us on a long journey and here we are, done the full circle back, in Miami for my first F1 race, so first home F1. So yeah, looking forward to it.”
In a sense, Sargeant is a bit star-struck at finding himself in the F1 field at what essentially is now his home track by default.
“It's amazing to be here,” he said with a smile. “I probably had about 1,000 ticket requests at this point -- (he paused before adding) not that many, maybe 100. But I don't have tickets as easy as everyone thinks.
“But yeah, it's nice to be here. It's going to be nice to actually take part in my first ever car race in America. That'll be pretty cool.
"And yeah, just to see the American fans, all friends and family here and the atmosphere I know is always good in America. The American fans put out some. I'm excited to have that home atmosphere for the first time and really just enjoy every part of the weekend.”
Sargeant also has some added incentive in Sunday’s race. He still has yet to earn his first F1 point. If he can somehow find his way into points-paying territory, it would be almost as good as actually winning his first F1 race.
“I remember when I first moved to Europe, I don't think there was a single US Grand Prix and I'm definitely glad there's three now,” Sargeant said. “That's pretty nice.
“Points is definitely what we're after. You know, it's going to be challenging, for sure. But I think that starts with delivering a better qualifying and going from there. But opportunities are always there to score points and we have to try and just work well together as a team and extract the most from it.”
And if he is able to earn even one point Sunday, Sargeant is being encouraged by team members, fellow drivers, family and friends to jump into the water in the faux marina that borders part of the track.
But Sargeant actually has other plans that are not so exciting: “Honestly, it might sound lame, but I’ll probably just go back to my house and get in my bed for another night before I go back to London. That's all I want to do.”
Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski