Logan Sargeant’s first year in F1 was characterized by growing pains for the driver and the car.
Williams is confident in the 23-year-old Sargeant and his potential.
Beyond the updated livery for Williams, the team's 2024 car has gone through a series of changes for the new year, specifically surrounding downforce.
The 2024 Formula 1 season is nearly here and all 10 teams are gearing up for another year of racing, albeit with no changes to the driver lineup in the new year.
Even so, the preseason has already been drama-filled, with Lewis Hamilton recently announcing a surprise move to Ferrari, and Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner under internal investigation for inappropriate behavior.
However, some teams have approached the season with a more tempered fanfare.
Williams Racing, in particular, simply launched its newer and bluer livery for 2024 at a ceremony in New York City earlier today. Additional color and the retention of drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant may signal another year of business as usual for Williams Racings, but team principal James Vowles says there is a complete transformation on the horizon.
“What I care about is us fighting at the front properly for championships again,” said Vowles in a media roundtable on Monday. “Last year, we had a car that you could predict where we're going to be quick and where we're going to be slow.
"I don't want that anymore."
Beyond the updated livery, the car has gone through a series of changes for the new year, specifically surrounding downforce. Vowles, Sergeant, and Albon all concurred that extensive time in the wind tunnel has made Williams’ Mercedes-powered machines more stable, predictable, and well-rounded than in the previous season.
Plus, Williams recently received an additional $20 million worth of capital expenditures—money that Vowles explained has been put to good use. Specifically, the investment allowed the team to purchase improved simulators as well as fix decaying 20-year-old infrastructure at Williams’ headquarters in Oxfordshire, U.K.
“There are elements of other cars on the grid, but it's really important to note that it wasn't through copying,” Vowles said. “Understand the flow dynamics, understand the impact of it, do an experiment, prove the experiment, and get the results of it feeding back in again. Where we end up with a car is resulting from that. I don't think it'll be to the point where they jack our car up on a crane in Monaco anymore and laugh.”
After finishing seventh in the 2023 F1 Constructors' Championship, Vowles says he is confident that the funding injection and improved simulator regiment will breed stronger results from both Albon and Sargeant.
And all eyes are on American rookie Sargeant, who is set to start his second year of F1 racing in Bahrain later this month.
Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sargeant was the rookie entrant in 2023. He enters 2024 still as the least-experienced F1 driver on the grid. After a short stint in Formula 2, Sargeant’s first year in F1 was characterized by growing pains for the driver and the car. Last year, his season included seven DNFs and just a single point at the 2023 U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
Even so, the team at Williams is confident in the 23-year-old and his potential. With a new trainer as well as training regiment, improved simulators, and more seat time, Vowles said that Sargeant is approaching the season with a new-found confidence. Similarly, Sargeant agreed that some of the last season's challenges stemmed from a lack of consistency and difficulty staying fit.
“I was tired. I am five kilos heavier than I was at the end of the season. I wasn't in great shape, to be honest,” Sargeant said Monday in New York. “I didn't want to dwell on it too much because I learned so much throughout the year and I could see everything starting to trend in the right direction towards the end of it.”
That positive trend is something Sargeant is optimistic he will carry through the season. After taking a step back during the offseason and honing in on his own fitness, the Williams Racing driver says success looks more like a big step forward. Consistently performing, whether that performance is the pole position or not, will be the key to success, he explained.
In fact, the American driver said that working on his own performance will only be part of the puzzle this season, as the newly revealed and significantly tweaked car will require some adjustment.
Looking forward to Bahrain, Sargeant and Albon agreed that the race would be as much of a test drive as a proper race.
“We have changed the approach to the car massively, which means it's going to be difficult for the engineers because the setup is going to change completely. It's going to be difficult for me and Alex because the driving style is going to change completely,” Sargeant said. “The work is focused, at the moment, on learning what this car needs. Unfortunately, we won't know completely until we get on track and see how it translates from the simulator.”
These changes are keeping Sargeant’s teammate, Albon, excited for the new season. While he also agreed that the learning curve is non-negotiable, Albon affirmed that the simulator sessions and new setup are likely to improve the team’s overall consistency. As a result, the competitive outlook on the season is trending positively, too.
“Last year, we had so many high peaks, but we were also going to races knowing we weren’t going to score points,” Albon said. “When we go to tracks like Monaco or Barcelona, we should see a car that's more in line and not out in Q1 and struggling. I'm actually more excited about the tracks we were bad at last year and see how we fare this year with all the evergreen changes.”