Logan Sargeant is stepping up into Formula 1 a year earlier than Williams initially planned, sporting director Sven Smeets revealing they wanted him to spend two years in Formula 2.
That, however, changed when Nicholas Latifi struggled to raise his game last year which prompted Williams to make a change.
Sargeant, who joined the Grove team’s academy in late 2021 before entering the Formula 2 series with Carlin, was promoted when his P4 finish in the championship guaranteed him enough super licence points to race in F1.
Smeets and the rest of the Williams team, though, are by no means worried he’s not ready for the challenge that lies ahead.
“We had a two-year plan with Logan in F2,” Smeets told Autosport.
“I think that’s how everybody starts. When the season started, very quickly and especially Silverstone and the races after that, we started to see the potential that we maybe didn’t have to do two seasons with him in F2.
“We didn’t say to him ‘you need to win F2 or you need to be second’, it was just his progression in F2, the raw speed he has shown in one lap, and himself maturing.
“It was also how he develops here in the sim sessions, doing his physical camps we have for them, doing the media training. All that was starting to go in a direction that, by summertime, we saw him as becoming one of our contenders.”
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Mistakes will be ‘part of the learning process’
The 22-year-old California will partner Alex Albon this season with Williams hoping the rookie will quickly get up to speed.
But with limited testing before the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Smeets concedes Sargeant will make mistakes.
“With the tracks that are starting [the season], Saudi, not much room for error, Australia, not much room for error,” he said.
“For him to learn the limits of a Formula 1 car, there are three days of testing, which are one and a half days his, and then you’re straight into a race.
“You can’t just say I’m going to do a few thousand kilometres to see how far I can go with these cars on-track. We know that will be part of that learning process.
“If the car is there where we’d like it to be, of course the first thing is challenging your team-mate, that’s number one.
“If you are in a position to fight for points, then even better. But we can’t just tell him in Bahrain, you need to beat Alex. I don’t think that would be very fair on him.
“But yeah, that’s the target: progression and to take this season to learn and then be full on for ’24.”
Smeets’ comments echo former boss Jost Capito
Former Williams team boss Jost Capito, announcing back in October that Sargeant was the team’s number one pick to replace Latifi, was quick to quash suggestions his F1 promotion had come too soon for the American.
Stating clearly that Williams only sign drivers to their academy with the “objective to get them in the Formula 1 car”, he added: “If you have a young driver who is ready for Formula 1, and you have the seat, you have to put the young driver into the seat – otherwise, you’ve done something wrong.”
Having spent three seasons in Formula 3 and then a year in Formula 2, Sargeant is not a stranger to single-seater racing.
Nor, insisted Capito at the time, can one base one driver’s development path on another driver’s.
Conceding you “never know how the development is”, he said: “From my history, I’m known to get young drivers in quickly because that’s the best way to find out what the potential really is and not park him.
“And if we see someone is ready, like we see Logan, we can take the decision.
“He wouldn’t have been lost if we would have decided he needs another year in F2, then he would have done that as well.
“But we see coming in as a rookie, winning races and showing that performance in qualifying, it’s the right thing to step up.”