Rare defence of easy-to-criticise F1 driver issued as ‘one reason’ to keep him emerges

Oliver Harden
The start of the Mexican Grand Prix as Max Verstappen surges ahead into Turn 1.

Images that precede unfortunate events: 2023 Mexican Grand Prix edition.

Sky F1 commentator David Croft believes team principal James Vowles is the perfect man to help Logan Sargeant realise his potential at Williams in the F1 2024 season.

Sargeant endured a challenging debut season in 2023, scoring just one of Williams’ 28 points and being outqualified by team-mate Alex Albon at all 22 races.

Despite several costly mistakes on track, Sargeant was retained by the team for next season having improved steadily – reaching Q3 at Zandvoort and Las Vegas, where he started directly behind Albon in sixth.

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Former Mercedes strategist Vowles made a fine impression in his first year as a team boss in 2023 and Croft is keen to see how the man at the top can help Sargeant develop into 2024.

Appearing on the Sky F1 podcast, he said: “The infrastructure at Grove is lagging behind the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes – you name it – because Williams were upgrading their facilities first [in previous decades].

“[Vowles has] put all that into operation while still attending the races, still having an eye on the way the team go racing, while still helping the drivers, because at Mercedes a lot of his work was working directly with the drivers.

“He was a perfect choice for a team principal if you wanted someone to help driver development.

“It’s one of the reasons I’m really glad they’ve kept Logan Sargeant on, because I think if anyone can get the best out of Logan Sargeant it will be James.

“Whether he does or not, I don’t know – that’s up to Logan – but I think he’s a perfect man for that. It didn’t surprise me that they’ve kept Logan on for that reason.

“And also, he might have a plan for 2025: why change it now and bring someone new in for just one season? We don’t know necessarily, but that’s me hypothesising on that.”

Croft went on to defend Sargeant’s record alongside Albon – the last driver to be whitewashed in qualifying by a team-mate, alongside Max Verstappen in his final season at Red Bull in 2020.

He said: “I see a lot of criticism of Logan Sargeant and sometimes that criticism can be fair – and he has crashed a few more times than he really wants to be doing.

“But a lot of the criticism is: ‘Oh, look, he hasn’t even outqualified his team-mate for heaven’s sake. He can’t even beat his team-mate in qualifying.’

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“It’s true. But the last person to go through a whole season and not beat his team-mate in qualifying was Alex Albon.

“And should we have written Alex Albon off right at that moment? Well actually, with the benefit of hindsight, no we shouldn’t because he’s turned into a fine driver.

“You don’t always, like a Max Verstappen, come out of the box and be brilliant straight away. Sometimes you need a bit more time.

“Let’s see how Logan does next year. I think he’ll do a lot better for the experience that he’s had this year.

“There’s no shame in being outqualified as a rookie by Alex Albon.”

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