James Vowles issues critical Logan Sargeant update as Kimi Antonelli swap speculation swirls

Jamie Woodhouse
Logan Sargeant or Kimi Antonelli for the Williams seat?

Logan Sargeant or Kimi Antonelli for the Williams seat?

While Williams team boss James Vowles says Logan Sargeant has “more work to do”, it would appear he is safe from losing his seat to Kimi Antonelli, for now.

Mercedes junior Antonelli does not turn 18 until late August, the minimum age to be granted an FIA super licence, though PlanetF1.com understands that a dispensation request has been lodged with the governing body to grant Antonelli a super licence before that point.

Kimi Antonelli request increases pressure on Logan Sargeant

The team responsible for lodging the dispensation request has not been confirmed, but PlanetF1.com understands it has not been made by Mercedes, which has given fresh momentum to existing rumours that Antonelli could replace the struggling Sargeant at Williams before the F1 2024 campaign is over.

Antonelli is currently contesting his maiden Formula 2 campaign, but recently completed tests in Mercedes Formula 1 machinery at Imola and the Red Bull Ring.

However, while Vowles said it is up to Sargeant to his “earn his place” in their line-up, he appeared to take the prospect of Antonelli replacing Sargeant in the near future off the table, even if he did dodge the question of whether Williams were responsible for this FIA request.

“Let’s put it this way, I haven’t spoken to Kimi since Abu Dhabi last year,” Vowles told media at the Miami Grand Prix, Sargeant’s home race. “Hopefully that puts it in context.

“I know nothing about what’s going on in the Mercedes tests right now.

“We are looking, as everyone else is, for where we want to be on driver line-up for next year. And we have our own young driver programme.

“In the case of Kimi, I can’t really adjudicate the level he’s at.

“In case of him coming into the car this year, I’ve always said from the beginning, it’s a meritocracy. Logan has to earn his seat and at the moment he has some tough targets where he has to get much closer to Alex [Albon], but there is nothing on the radar at the moment for replacing him.”

Sargeant was unable to outqualify his impressive team-mate Albon across the 2023 campaign, Sargeant’s rookie season, while scoring just the one point. Sargeant’s inability to better Albon over lap has continued into the F1 2024 campaign.

The Florida-native therefore has work to do if he is to match Williams’ expectations, that being to start beating Albon in qualifying and race trim, though Vowles reiterated that Sargeant continues to have their support in that mission.

“What I was saying last year was at the end of the year, he came close to Alex, which is all I want him to do, but the progression had to continue, he had to be at the point where he’s not sitting a tenth behind him but rather challenging him and outqualifying him and outracing him,” said Vowles.

“We’re still on that journey. What Logan has as a challenge fundamentally in front of him is enormous. We can’t underrate where Alex is as a driver. He was I think underrated before and he’s a brilliant, brilliant driver in his own entity.

“In terms of Logan, what I’ve been asking from him is despite the pressures of the world, the pressures we’ve created, the pressures I’ve created, the pressure all of you [media] have created, you need to pool that all and put it behind you and make sure you’re now out there fighting and outqualifying Alex, pushing the team forward as a result of things.

“And those targets effectively are encompassed in a number of other more formal ways of putting it, but without doubt, this is a tough field. There’s no doubt about it.

“But as I said all the way through, it’s a meritocracy, earn your place. Now, he’s got more work to do, but he’s also one of the top 20 Formula 1 drivers in the world on the grid and there’s a reason for that.

“And here in Miami, at his home Grand Prix, I’m putting him on my shoulders and supporting him, because that’s what we should be doing at this point. He’s in the car, he’ll remain in the car. And my job here is supporting him.”

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Williams scored an impressive 28 points last season, Vowles’ first at the helm, though the team are still waiting for their first point of F1 2024.

However, Vowles said their drivers are not the pressing concern right now, rather it is improving the machinery which they have at their disposal.

Put to him that there is a “desire” to see Antonelli in a Williams this season, Vowles replied: “I’m sure there’s a desire, but I’ll give you my perspective on it. We have far bigger problems to solve than drivers at the moment.

“Alex has done championship-level drives and at the moment, he’s not scoring points. And fundamentally, we have it on us to improve our car going forward. That’s my primary concern more than anything else.

“And what we do with drivers going into ’25/’26, a lot of us [team bosses] here are just sorting out where we’re going to be for next year fundamentally.

“And of that, there are options on the table, but it is far too early to tell in the sense of Kimi, you have to remember it’s just 20 months ago he was in a Formula 4 car. That’s a large, large step up into a Formula 1 car in such a short space of time.”

And on that front, Vowles said he does not have the information available from Antonelli’s Mercedes tests to judge the level which he is at.

“My information sources is journalism for that, so I don’t have any direct communication with Mercedes on how he’s doing in the tests,” Vowles confirmed.

“I just understand that he has been testing in Imola and I think he also did Austria.

“So, for that one, everything I read is what you read, which as far as I can tell, it’s good. You can’t really compare in that situation. It’s older cars. I’m not sure if it’s a ’21 or ’22 car and there’s nothing really to reference it to.”

Antonelli scored his best F2 result yet in his most recent outing, claiming P4 in the Australia feature race.

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