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Formula 1

Sargeant out? What's going on with mooted mid-season F1 swap

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

Williams potentially replacing Logan Sargeant with Mercedes protege Kimi Antonelli during the 2024 Formula 1 season has emerged as a credible prospect, although any such move is not thought to be imminent.

Reigning Formula Regional European champion Antonelli has bypassed Formula 3 and stepped straight into Formula 2 this season at 17 years old.

He emerged as a surprise contender for a Mercedes F1 seat for 2025 but is now linked with getting on the F1 grid before then.

Logan Sargeant Williams Japanese Grand Prix practice crash

Sargeant has had an unconvincing start to an F1 career that he was pushed into early because of a driver dilemma Williams found itself in for 2022.

He has struggled to consistently match team-mate Alex Albon, let alone threaten to beat him, and has also suffered several crashes – although his main setback this year was out of his control as Williams benched him at the Australian Grand Prix so Albon could race Sargeant’s chassis after a practice crash.

Williams and its team principal James Vowles have repeatedly backed Sargeant but also set formal targets for him to meet this season, which have only been referenced publicly as a broad need to start challenging and beating Albon more.

Logan Sargeant

So far, Sargeant has fallen short of that. And though Williams is yet to score a point with either driver this season, it appears to be at least evaluating whether it needs to replace Sargeant to have two more competitive cars longer-term.

Though Williams has its own other junior drivers in the academy that Sargeant graduated from, including Antonelli’s F2 rivals Zak O’Sullivan and Franco Colapinto, the prospect of taking Antonelli on loan from Mercedes has been formally raised in some capacity.


Kimi Antonelli, F1

Antonelli is an unlikely but legitimate contender for an F1 drive with Mercedes next year in the wake of Lewis Hamilton’s shock move to Ferrari.

That depends on various factors including what happens to current Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and Hamilton’s Ferrari successor Carlos Sainz, plus how Antonelli performs over the course of the F2 season and in a private F1 testing programme with Mercedes that recently started.

As Antonelli is not 18 until August, he is not yet eligible for a superlicence because of the minimum age criteria that was imposed following Max Verstappen’s shock karting-to-F3-to-F1 career path that fast-tracked him onto the grid at 17.

Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, F1

But the FIA says it has received a request for an exemption for Antonelli to get a superlicence early.

“We are looking into it but there's a process to be followed and multiple people/commissions required to vote and agree to it as it requires a rule change,” a spokesperson for the governing body said.

Mercedes is understood to be happy to respect the age limit, though, and wait until Antonelli is 18 – which implies someone else started that conversation or has since moved it on.


James Vowles

At the Miami Grand Prix on Friday, Vowles did not emphatically rule out a move for Antonelli, but strongly indicated it is at least not immediately on the horizon.

Asked if there is a desire at Williams to bring Antonelli in during 2024, Vowles said “I'm sure there's a 'desire'” before indicating the main priority for the team is improving its car and working out its longer-term driver plans.

“In the sense of Kimi, you have to remember it was just 20 months ago he was in a Formula 4 car,” he added.

“That's a large, large step up into a Formula 1 car in such a short space of time.”

Asked by The Race specifically about speculation there could be an in-season change involving Antonelli and if there is a chance Sargeant may be replaced before the end of 2024, Vowles replied: “Let's put it this way, I haven't spoken to Kimi since Abu Dhabi last year - 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.

Kimi Antonelli Mercedes F1 test

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

“In the 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.

“But there's nothing on the radar at the moment for replacing him.”

Vowles also said of Sargeant, who is having to shut out such speculation at his home race, that: “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.”


Kimi Antonelli

Should that change and a move for Antonelli happen in the coming races or later in the season, Mercedes needs to agree to him being placed at Williams at all.

As Antonelli is still a contender for a Mercedes drive in 2025, the multiple world champion team needs to decide what is best for his development.

Theoretically, a quick Williams ‘apprenticeship’ could be useful before a full-time Mercedes seat next year.

But that could also be disruptive for him, especially as it would mean cutting short his time in F2 and presumably compromise or completely curtail his F1 testing programme.

It would also only be a short-term measure for Williams, whereas a more mutually beneficial arrangement could be if Mercedes signs Sainz or (ideally) Verstappen and Antonelli having a multi-year Williams stint like George Russell did.

One reason Mercedes is happy to wait is that Antonelli is so young and inexperienced that continuing his F2 season alongside testing old Mercedes F1 cars should propel him quickly along a steep learning curve.

There has been intense speculation around the quality of Antonelli’s maiden F1 tests although reported performance levels and laptime comparisons are exaggerated because such analysis is massively compromised by so many variables being different to when Mercedes has run at these tracks in the past.

Kimi Antonelli Mercedes F1 test

However, Mercedes seems satisfied with how Antonelli has conducted himself, and he has avoided any problematic incidents.

Factoring in Mercedes’ apparent happiness to wait, the element of it not deciding what to do with Antonelli in the medium-term, and Vowles’ remarks about Sargeant, and even if this in-season change becomes a reality, it may well be realised in a matter of months rather than weeks.

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