James Vowles responds to brutal ‘keep crashing’ question with ‘sore statistic’

Michelle Foster
The broken nose and wing of Logan Sargeant's FW46

The broken nose and wing of Logan Sargeant's FW46

James Vowles says that’s “one to ask the drivers” after Ted Kravitz’s brutal “keep crashing” question about the Williams team-mates.

Williams, a team short on parts and most notably without a spare chassis, recorded their second huge FP1 crash in as many race weekends on Friday when Logan Sargeant lost it in Suzuka.

‘It is a sore statistic that we are generating as many red flags as we are’

Back on the track, but using Alex Albon’s repaired chassis after the Thai-British driver’s crash in first practice for the Australian Grand Prix, Sargeant soon found himself in the barriers.

Running wide at Turn 7, the American put wheels onto the grass and lost control of the FW46. He suffered a hard impact nose-first into the barrier before a secondary impact damaged the rear of his car.

The good news was the chassis wasn’t damaged, the bad news being that “pretty much everything else” was, including the suspension and gearbox.

Such was the “extensive” damage, as Vowles put it, Sargeant wasn’t able to take to the track in FP2 although Williams are confident he will be back in action come Saturday’s final practice.

But with two big crashes in two race weekends, Sky Sports’ pit-lane reporter Kravitz wasn’t holding back as he asked Vowles why his drivers “keep crashing”.

The team boss replied: “It’s a strong question – one to ask the drivers – but I think what you can see of the midfield at the moment, it’s incredibly tight.

“And what we’re asking of the drivers is to be absolutely on the limit to get everything out of it. There’s no margin for error fundamentally in terms of performance.

“I don’t think the car has any ill-handling characteristics.”

He added: “It is a sore statistic that we are generating as many red flags as we are, and clearly it affects future programmes, so we’ve got to get on top of that.”

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‘Not with the intention of proving to the world he deserves a seat’

Vowles was pressed on the subject during the team boss press conference in Japan, asked whether Sargeant felt he had something ‘to prove’ after being overlooked in favour of Albon in Australia.

Last time out Sargeant had to give his chassis to his team-mate despite it being Albon who crashed in FP1 as Vowles believed Albon had the better chance of scoring points for the team.

“I’ve been chatting to him all week, all these last few weeks, in fact, because this is the point where you’ve got to keep a driver very close to you,” he said.

“You’ve sort of given them a very difficult situation to deal with, through no fault of their own.

“But he was honestly in a very good state of mind this week and last night again when I called him at about 9, 10pm, really, really strong state of mind, just wanted to get back into the car and get going, but not with the intention of proving to the world he deserves a seat, just his normal approach to things. And what you saw here wasn’t a driver making a mistake because I think they were pushing to the limit.

“It’s a very different type of mistake, a frustrating one by all accounts, because it wasn’t on the limit of what the car could do. There was far more turning potential in there. He just didn’t know where the car was on track relative to where he expected it to be anyway.

“So I don’t think you’re seeing there the reaction of someone that wasn’t driving in Melbourne. I think you’re seeing more just a situation that could have appeared at any time.”

Williams are one of three teams along with Alpine and Sauber who have yet to score a point in 2024.

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