Logan Sargeant’s absence from Australian Grand Prix, defined

The social media crew for the Method 1 Australian Grand Prix has captured plenty of unbelievable moments already. However a video they shared on Saturday maybe framed one of many weekend’s greatest storylines to perfection.

Williams driver Logan Sargeant was making his strategy to the storage by a throng of followers when one thing captured his eye. The American driver circled and made his strategy to a fan who was holding an indication and Sargeant made positive to autograph the fan’s message earlier than persevering with on his method.

The signal learn “Justice for Logie Bear,” with a picture of Sargeant behind bars.

Whereas many readers are possible already conscious of the underlying motive behind that signal, some F1 followers simply tuning in for the Australian Grand Prix might need a easy query:

Why is Sargeant not driving in the present day, and why does Williams have only one automotive within the area?

The solutions, nevertheless, are something however easy.

It begins with Friday’s first free follow session, and a lap from Sargeant’s teammate Alexander Albon whereas on a set of the C5 comfortable tires. After engaged on some race simulations Williams bolted on a set of softs so Albon might check the FW46’s one-lap tempo. However as he was exiting Flip 6 he took just a little an excessive amount of kerb, and shortly discovered himself within the obstacles:

The large shunt — which occurred on the similar spot the place Albon had an accident in final yr’s race — brought on substantial injury to his FW46, and specifically the chassis. That left Albon sidelined for the second follow session on Friday, with the crew doing every part doable to restore the automotive for Saturday’s FP3 and qualifying.

Which included violating curfew.

Sadly for the crew, the injury to the chassis was merely an excessive amount of, and the automotive couldn’t be repaired in time.

Which led to a different drawback.

Whereas most F1 groups have a spare chassis on race weekends, Williams began the season with out one. They had been capable of get by pre-season testing in addition to the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with out this being a difficulty, however out of the blue they had been down to 1 chassis.

With two drivers.

Crew Principal James Vowles was pressured to make what he known as one of many hardest choices of his profession: Figuring out which of their two drivers would take part in qualifying, and the race itself. Would he press on with Sargeant, or bump the American driver from his automotive and slide within the veteran Albon?

He selected Albon.

The explanation the crew was and not using a spare chassis at first of the season will be traced again to the winter, and the event of the FW46 itself. As Vowles has outlined all through this season — together with on the crew’s New York Metropolis launch of their 2024 challenger — since taking up at Williams bringing their operation updated has been an enormous focus of his. However growth of this season’s challenger was hit with delays, which means they didn’t have sufficient time to supply a spare forward of the beginning of the 2024 marketing campaign.

Vowles defined this in an in depth video produced by the crew:

On paper the choice could appear harsh, however tapping Albon for Sargeant’s seat does make a level of sense. In spite of everything Albon outscored Sargeant 27-1 final season, out-qualifying the American driver in every of the 22 race weekends throughout the 2023 marketing campaign.

That included final season, the place Sargeant didn’t advance out of Q1, and Albon certified in P8.

Nonetheless, the flip facet to that call was not with out advantage. This was the second time in as many seasons that Albon slipped up at that spot on the observe, and the injury to the FW46 got here by no fault of Sargeant’s. Whereas the second-year driver did have a spin of his personal throughout follow on Friday, he stored the FW46 out of the wall and did end thirteenth in FP2.

Nonetheless with the midfield so tight this season — simply one level separates P10 from P6 within the Constructors’ Championship at this second — Vowles and Williams know that each level counts. And that Albon possible offers them the very best probability at incomes some extent in Australia.

The choice has paid off, no less than for the second. Whereas Albon noticed his first lap time deleted in Q1 on account of exceeding observe limits, he was capable of do sufficient to advance into Q2. He ended up qualifying in P12, placing himself in good place to safe that vital level — or factors — later in the present day.

In the end, the consequence could observe. However within the coming days and weeks a lot might be stated concerning the course of that led to that call, and any consequence Albon is ready to obtain in Melbourne. How did Williams really discover themselves behind the event curve this winter? Can they’ve a spare chassis prepared for the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks?

And what does this choice imply for Sargeant’s current, and future, at Williams and even in F1 itself?

The choice to retain Sargeant for 2024 was considered with skepticism by some, though we right here at SB Nation applauded the transfer, because it mirrored the affected person, long-term strategy Vowles preached all final season. However a lot has modified in F1 since that call. Lewis Hamilton’s pending transfer to Ferrari, coupled with over half of the grid (Sargeant included) set to see their contracts expire on the finish of this season means the upcoming driver switch market might spin uncontrolled.

Which means this choice from Vowles might have long-lasting implications.

For instance, one of many drivers talked about as a possible substitute for Hamilton at Mercedes is younger Andrea Kimi Antonelli. The 17-year-old member of the Mercedes Junior Crew bypassed F3 altogether, making the leap instantly into F2 this season. After ending 14th within the season-opening Dash Race in Bahrain he completed within the factors in three-straight races, together with a pair of P6 finishes within the Dash Race and the Characteristic Race in Saudi Arabia.

Whereas a leap from F2 into Hamilton’s seat at Mercedes may very well be a bridge too far for him, sliding right into a seat at Williams may very well be his subsequent step.

That is only one potential situation, and naturally Sargeant has the vast majority of the 2024 F1 season forward to make his personal case, and the way the younger driver responds to the occasions of those previous few days will go a great distance in the direction of figuring out his future.

When Williams launched their 2024 challenger in New York Metropolis, Vowles promised a extra “assured” Sargeant for the upcoming season. “I hope you get an opportunity to interview him as a result of those who did final yr to this yr, you’re gonna see I believe a much more assured man that’s within the automotive. And it’s not as a result of I’ve signed him,” defined Vowles to the media, together with SB Nation. “We had some actual sincere chats about what was good and what was dangerous and the way we’ve got to begin the season once more. He’s modified his coach, he’s modified his coaching regime. He’s fitter and more healthy than ever. And these are the indicators of somebody that desires this desperately.”

When the grid heads to Japan, that confidence wants to come back by from Sargeant.

Leave a Comment