Re-signing Logan Sargeant despite his struggles in his rookie season, James Vowles says Williams had “other choices” but they believe in the “fiercely fast” driver.
Stepping up into Formula 1 this season after just one year in Formula 2, Sargeant grappled with Williams’ FW45, and it showed in his results.
The perennial backmarker on the grid, the American was destroyed by his team-mate Alex Albon who whitewashed him in qualifying and outscored him 23 points to one.
Williams had ‘other choices’ to replace Logan Sargeant
The pressure on Sargeant to score points – and on Williams to drop him if he didn’t score – grew with every passing race with pundits putting forward a list of candidates.
But while Williams did have other options, team boss Vowles announced days after the season had concluded that they’d be sticking with the 22-year-old.
“There was optionality, there was other choices,” he explained in Sky Sports’ post-season review programme. “But we’ve invested in him because I believe in him.
“He is fiercely fast when he gets it right and all together. He needs the environment now where he can grow and do more of that next year and that’s why he deserves more of an opportunity.”
Vowles talks ‘terrible mistakes’ and ‘opportunities to grow’
The team boss, who took over the reins at Williams this season after stepping down from his post as Mercedes’ strategy director, revealed his own personal experience is part of the reason he’s continuing to support Sargeant on his Formula 1 journey.
“The main thing is this, I really do believe in investing in future of individuals and for clarity not just in drivers but also within Williams itself, within the infrastructure,” he added.
“I myself was a graduate 25 years ago and I was given opportunities to grow and I made some terrible mistakes on the way but they formed me into who I am today.
“With Logan it was the same thing. With very little mileage in any sort of testing whatsoever at all we threw him in the deep end against Alex who now I think the world really understands how competitive he really is. As a ‘good luck, off you go’.
“And that simply isn’t enough to be able to create an environment where that individual grows. Without question he did struggle across the year. Across the last four or five races, and part of it was definitely being in the top 10 in Las Vegas and doing some incredible laps not one but three or four of them all the way throughout qualifying.
“He’s absorbing the pressure far better than before. He’s fighting for the back end of the points.
“The car simply wasn’t quick enough across those last four rounds, but he’s been where I needed him to be in order to demonstrate that he’s made the step required this year and that he can grow further next year.
“In other words, the journey still going.”
Vowles highlights Albon’s ‘World Champion’ drives
Williams will continue with the same line-up for a second season as Albon is also staying at the team.
One of the revelations of the 2023 championship, the Thai-British racer has been applauded for his performances with Vowles highlighting how the right environment can bring out the best in a driver.
So much so he reckons Albon put in a few World Champion-esque drives this past season.
“I don’t think you saw the best of Alex,” he said. “He went into an environment where he was a little bit junior, a little bit inexperienced, and didn’t get the best out of himself.
“What you’ve seen this year with Alex is he’s really transformed himself. His confidence has grown enormously and a lot about driving the car on the limits, belief in himself, belief in the infrastructure, belief in the team, that’s what’s changed. He really does believe in where we are and what he is capable of doing.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of World Champions across my time and the drives that he did across three events this year, certainly Monza, Montreal, and Silverstone, were just that he didn’t put a foot wrong for 40 laps whilst we put him in a position where he in half the field will be standing up behind him.
“And that is really when you start to see the true Alex coming out into that pressure situation.”