It was a very unusual Formula 1 driver market this season, with 19 of the 20 positions being confirmed long before the end of the year. The reasons for that, and the knock-on impact on 2024’s silly season, are worth exploring in a separate feature, but being the odd one out must have been frustrating.
The odd one out was the rookie who earlier this year became the first American to score a point in Formula 1 for more than three decades. Logan Sargeant’s result in Austin kicked off a run of improved consistency that eventually earned him a second season with Williams next year.
“I think as of late, I’ve really showed myself that it’s all there to be able to do it,” Sargeant told RACER as he waited for his future to be confirmed. “And from my point of view, that is very nice to know that if I am here next year, I am getting very close to where I need to be.
“But of course, I want to be here. We put in a lot of work over the past – what is it three, two and a half years now? – whatever it’s been. And yeah, I just feel part of the family, for sure. I see a lot of positives for the team moving forward. The goal is to continue that journey with them.”
Goal achieved, although Sargeant had to wait until after the final race before his seat was assured. The point in Austin came when Sargeant benefitted from two disqualifications due to technical infringements, meaning he was on a plane back home to Florida when the news came through. His next race in the United States allowed a more immediate sense of gratification, as he put his Williams alongside teammate Alex Albon on the third row in Las Vegas.
“That was amazing,” he said. “Obviously, Saturday night [the race] wasn’t the best night ever. But other than that, I think it was a really strong weekend through and through. Tricky new circuit, very low grip, difficult to really get a hold of, initially. But it came to us nicely.
“We had a really good car, especially over one lap. And to be able to perform like that over three separate qualifying sessions, to continue to build lap after lap… very happy with my laps as well. So that was that was really good for myself to see as well, putting it together like that.”
Off the back of such a strong showing, it might have made sense for Williams to announce an extension for Sargeant there and then, with limited experienced alternatives appearing to be available and team principal James Vowles insisting he wants to see the 22-year-old succeed.
But Sargeant himself acknowledges there were too many occasions earlier in the season where he created doubts about his ability to deliver on his potential, including his tendency to make errors under pressure.
“I think the tough bits for me have been when the potential has been there, making mistakes, put it in the wall, whatever it may be,” he said. “I mean, it happens – obviously, it’s not what you want to be doing – but there’s only one way to figure it out. There’s only one way to figure out the right approach and mindset that you need to take into session after session, and that’s just building experience.
Sargeant ended the season without any guarantees about his F1 future, but relief came in the form of a new contract from Williams last week. Simon Galloway/Motorsport Images
“Sure, I’ve made some mistakes. But I feel like now I at least have a much better understanding of the approach and mindset that I’m talking about that I needed to have to not make those mistakes in the future.”
On many occasions, those mistakes came at the worst possible time for Sargeant because he was just starting to display signs of progress. At the Dutch Grand Prix, he reached Q3 for the first time but then crashed heavily, while an encouraging start the Japanese Grand Prix weekend was ruined by a costly error at the start of qualifying.
“I think a lot of this year, there’s been difficult moments, changing conditions, being able to get on top of those quite nicely [has been encouraging],” he said. “Zandvoort qualifying, for example, bar Q3, but then even going to new tracks like Suzuka, Singapore, places I’ve never been to and just really enjoying those tracks.
“I felt like I was able to get on top of them pretty quickly, which is also really nice for me. That kind of helped me when we went to Vegas, because it was finally the first time that everyone else had a track that they hadn’t been to and all of a sudden they’re in my territory, I guess you can say.
“It just puts them into what I’ve been doing the whole year. I think that also showed and helped me – it sort of put me on an equal playing field, and then you see what happens.”
It was only at the penultimate race that Sargeant truly showed he can deliver on his potential, and doing so when his future was still up in the air was another positive that helped him end up on the right side of Williams’ decision for 2024. That’s a decision that was led by a team principal who wasn’t in place when the American was signed late last season, with Vowles taking over from Jost Capito ahead of this year, but Sargeant has felt the support from his current boss.
“Honestly, it was a bit out of nowhere at the start of the year, for myself of obviously the change from Jost to James,” he said. “But it was honestly such a smooth transition. I immediately got on really well with [Vowles] – both me and Alex.
“Just having that racing mentality, that driver mindset, understanding the human element of it, understanding the driving side of it, just made it really easy to connect on that level of being a driver. And obviously he tries to help me along the way the best he can, the best way that we move forward both together and for myself.
“Other than that, I think the positive impact he’s had on the team throughout the year [is clear]. The momentum, I feel like we’re moving forward with, and the optimism for the future as well. I feel like it’s all been a really positive year for the team.”
Rounding out 2023 in seventh place in the constructors’ championship certainly was an solid result for Williams, which appears to be building momentum under Dorilton Capital’s ownership. Now Sargeant himself has built up enough momentum of his own to remain a part of that journey for another year at least.