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Formula 1

‘Nothing to be satisfied about’ – An F1 rookie’s blunt appraisal

by Edd Straw
5 min read

Williams rookie Logan Sargeant’s debut Formula 1 season has been, by his own reckoning, “nothing to be satisfied about”.

That’s a frank assessment from a driver who has set himself the challenge to “be better”, but who also highlights clear areas for improvement.

Sargeant has yet to finish in the points in F1, albeit in a car that team-mate Alex Albon has only managed to score once in with 10th place in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. Sargeant’s best finish is 12th in the same race, while he has only reached the second segment of qualifying twice (including the sprint shootout in Azerbaijan).

The 22-year-old is on the back foot at the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend given he will run the old-specification Williams FW44 in Montreal, with Albon running an upgrade package that produces greater downforce and therefore brings a hoped-for performance boost. Sargeant hopes to have the upgrade for the next race in Austria.

Asked by The Race how he reflected on his season so far, Sargeant replied: “Highs and lows. There’s been good points and bad points.

“Looking at myself very honestly, I have to be better. I’m never completely satisfied and there’s nothing to be satisfied about yet, so plenty to work on and improve on. That has to be the goal.

“This weekend going to a new track in tricky conditions, we’ve both had a couple of crashes now, we need to keep it clean. Hopefully both with the upgrade going forward we can start to be more consistently quicker.”

Sargeant has justifiably referred to seeing “a lot of very promising signs” and indicates he has a clear idea of how to deliver on his objective of improving.

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He certainly has Albon’s support. Asked by The Race earlier this month to assess how he felt Sargeant was doing, his team-mate replied: “I was a rookie once and I know what I know now compared to what I knew in my first few races. I was miles apart in terms not of speed, but of what I know about the car and how to set up the car and how to manage the tyres. It comes with time. He’s quick.”

Sargeant has shown flashes of speed, regularly showing the potential to break into Q2 with mistakes often holding him back.

Early in the year, he highlighted high-speed corners as the main area for improvement in terms of where he lost time to Albon. That has improved, but he’s currently focused on releasing the brake earlier and increasing minimum corner speed. For example, in qualifying in Monaco he was losing significant time to Albon at Massenet and in the first part of the Swimming Pool section thanks to not carrying the same speed.

“It’s just been simply about getting off the brake a little bit sooner and carrying more minimum speed, [that’s] a bit of trend and in the last two weekends that has started to go away,” said Sargeant.

“Barcelona wasn’t really seen because that crash in FP3 kind of disrupted our weekend but I think it’s been moving in the right direction. Whether or not it shows, I’m getting quite a bit closer.”

Sargeant has yet to string together what could be considered a ‘complete’ F1 weekend. In the first three events of the season in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia he showed potentially Q2 pace but errors ultimately cost him. The qualifying underachievement in that trio of races meant he was never a points threat.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

On the Jeddah Corniche Circuit he was particularly impressive pace-wise in Q1, setting a time quicker than anything Albon managed on his first run but having the time deleted for carelessly straying beyond track limits on the run to the line. He then made mistakes on his next two runs.

Sargeant reached Q2 in both qualifying sessions on the streets of Baku, although he failed to improve in the main qualifying session and crashed in the second stage of the sprint shootout. That prevented him starting the sprint race, while in the Azerbaijan GP an early pitstop before the safety car contributed to him finishing 16th.

He endured a difficult weekend on home soil in Miami, qualifying and then finishing last after clipping Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin on the opening lap. He then had a largely clean weekend in Monaco, until the rain came late in the race and he hit the wall. In Spain, he crashed in FP3 and qualified last after a late start in Q1 following a rapid repair job by the team.

This adds up to a pattern of showing promise in weekends but often not delivering on it in qualifying. He has also sometimes struggled with tyre management in races, which is to be expected for a rookie.

He eschewed the chance to use the unusual characteristics of many of the circuits F1 has raced on so far this year as an excuse, but is hoping to produce some more rounded weekends in the upcoming sequence of races before the summer break.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying Day Barcelona, Spain

“I don’t think it’s held me back, it’s all been beneficial learning,” said Sargeant of the recent spate of street circuits.

“No matter what the situation I try and get the most out of it and learn as much as I can from it for the future.

“I’m excited to go into July and string together some European races, but at the same time I’m excited for this weekend and perform well and get through it unscathed.”

Given the disadvantage he has in terms of car specification, that’s a sensible approach to take. But once he again has parity his first objective will be to put together a clean, well-constructed weekend.

He’s right to say there have been highs and lows and his campaign so far has shown flashes of real promise. But with seven events under his belt, he is well aware that he needs to start producing some results – even modest ones given the limited machinery – to confirm his progress.

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