Backing George Russell as a rookie in 2019, Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson has joked the Briton owes Williams a “beer or two”.
But perhaps it’s the other way around if the lessons learned together with the Brit help their latest rookie Logan Sargeant as he begins his Formula 1 journey.
Williams have had three rookies on the payroll in the past five seasons, Russell, then Nicholas Latifi and now Sargeant with Robson saying this year’s debutant is already proving to be more closely matched to Albon than his first Williams team-mate, Latifi.
Albon and Latifi were team-mates for just one season, 2022, a season in which the stats leaned heavily in the Thai-British racer’s favour in all but the crash column.
That one belonged to the Canadian with Williams eventually calling time on his Formula 1 stay with then team boss Jost Capito saying he felt the controversy that ensued after the driver’s 2021 Abu Dhabi crash had affected his driving.
Latifi was subsequently replaced by Williams junior Sargeant, the Californian already pushing Albon more than Latifi did.
“I think that’s true to a certain extent,” Robson said as per Motorsport-Total.com when asked if the team now has two evenly matched drivers.
“I think Nicky had a lot of pace. I think he just struggled to bring it together.
“But he contributed a lot to the team and everything else, so he did obviously play his part.
“We’ve only had two races with Logan. But yeah, I mean his pace compared to Alex has been good. And we need someone to keep pushing Alex.
“So I guess time will tell, but yeah, it feels good at the moment and I know that 12th place in Bahrain certainly gave that side of the garage a little boost.
“That’s a good thing because they’ve put a lot of work into it, especially the mechanics. So being very close to a team-mate for the first race is good for them and it also has a passive benefit, if you will.”
The Briton believes Williams’ past experience with rookies, with Russell the most recent success story, bodes well for Sargeant.
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Russell spent three seasons with Williams, secured a surprise podium at the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, and then moved onto Mercedes where he won his first race in Sao Paulo last year.
“I’d like to believe that’s true,” Robson said when asked about the team’s experience with rookies. “I still believe that George owes us a beer or two, but it’s hard to say.
“I think hopefully with these two we’ll have some success.
“Obviously Alex wasn’t a rookie when he came to us but I think the whole team is going in the right direction. If the car gets better we can keep these two guys for a good number of years and that will pay off later.”
The team is already off the mark in 2023, Albon having scored a point at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix with Sargeant P12 on the day.
Although the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix wasn’t a good outing for the team, Albon retiring and Sargeant P16, Robson says the drivers feel the FW45 is a step forward.
“Probably [the car] hasn’t been tried in really windy conditions yet, so we’ll have to wait and see,” Robson said. “I think it’s clearly an evolution from last year’s car, but I think it’s improved in a few areas that aren’t just downforce and drag related.”
“And drivers have said it’s still very nice to drive. So I think it’s pretty clear that this is kind of a bigger brother to the FW44. So it’s going in the right direction, but it is still pretty clear where work needs to be done.”