Logan Sargeant has had an F1 rookie season that can be most charitably described as "trying" - with a 1-27 points score relative to Williams team-mate Alex Albon, no qualifying triumphs over the ex-Red Bull driver and a series of errors that really tested the patience of team boss James Vowles.
But Vowles and Williams have always leaned towards keeping Sargeant for another year if he just gave the team a reason to believe, so Williams' December 1 announcement that the Floridian was getting another season came as little surprise.
The question is - did Sargeant actually give a good enough reason? Or was the reason instead the lack of obvious upgrades on the driver market? And if so, should Williams have rolled the dice with a change anyway?
Our writers give their takes:
THERE'S NO WAY THIS IS ON MERIT
There is no way the decision to re-sign him will be done on merit alone.
Basically he isn’t fast enough, he isn’t consistent enough and he has cost the team a lot of money.
But not only that he has cost it a lot of time. Whilst the people at Williams are making parts to recover from the damage, they are not making new development parts.
It may be a fill-in year until someone else pops up through Williams's system. But I am sure there are others much more capable available right now.
However he is the only American so perhaps some of those decisions come with the blessing of Liberty Media.
Flashes make another go worth it
Sargeant's rookie season was, overall, not good enough. However, there were sufficient signs of promise to show that, if he can consistently string weekends together, he will be a decent performer.
The big question is whether he can do so. F1 asks a lot of rookies, he had just a day and a half of pre-season testing and there's a lot to get on top of. What's more, he was driving a car that was not easy to get the best out of and in which Albon excelled in threading the needle to achieve an improbable points tally.
But as Oscar Piastri showed, albeit with more F1 mileage under his belt before '24, that doesn't mean that expectations of rookies should be set too low.
Sargeant did make improvements as the season progressed and late on he did his best work. In Las Vegas, he qualified well but couldn't hang on in the top 10 anything like as long as Albon did before slipping back, while in Abu Dhabi his weekend was undone by two track limits violations at Turn 1 on in Q1 but he showed decent pace.
There is a foundation there to be built on and 2024 should be better.
As for what his ultimate ceiling is, there's nothing so far to suggest he can get to Albon's level, but Sargeant will at least have the opportunity to put what he learned in 2023 into practice and see where it leads him.
And that will likely serve Williams as well, if not better, than taking a stop-gap driver.
Not ruthless enough
F1 is a cut-throat business, but this isn’t a cut-throat decision.
The fact that Williams just secured seventh in the constructors’ championship shows there’s plenty to fight for at this end of the grid worth plenty of money and Williams should be equipping itself to deal with that as best as possible.
Sargeant is a good driver, but he’s done little to show he’s of the kind of calibre his rivals are. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves, in my opinion. He's a placeholder Williams will almost certainly move on at the end of next year. Why wait until then?
He’s been rescued by a couple of unexciting Formula 2 crops coming through, but that ends when Ollie Bearman or Andrea Kimi Antonelli put themselves in contention next year, among others.
If Nyck de Vries warranted dropping mid-season, so did Sargeant, and while he might be younger and a bit raw, Sargeant shouldn’t have got the Williams seat in the first place and hasn’t done enough to prove he belongs at this level.
Williams should have tried harder to grab Liam Lawson instead.
Enough of an upward curve
It's easy to say that Sargeant didn't do enough over the course of the year to justify another season. At times, his performances gave a strong argument for that.
But that doesn't mean he shouldn't be given a second chance, especially when you consider his qualifying performances in the latter stages of 2023.
From the United States Grand Prix onwards, Sargeant was definitely showing much better pace, closer to Albon, hinting at some underlying potential.
Considering the (lack of) alternatives, Williams can justify giving Sargeant a second season, but in 2024 there can be no excuses.
Qualifying form is one thing, but Sargeant really must up his game in the races. If he can't do that, and early on, then it's only a matter of time before that seat gets given to someone else.
Lack of alternatives sealed the deal
After his big accident and all-round horrible weekend in Japan, I thought Sargeant was being pushed towards the exit door. But to his credit, I think he has genuinely improved in the closing rounds of his season.
His first point at his home round of Austin was well-earned, and I think he was able to stay closer to Albon from that point onwards.
And if you look at the landscape of free agents in F1 right now, there isn't an obvious direct replacement without giving off the vibe of "starting over", given Sargeant was a good, but maybe not great F2 driver in the first place.
Red Bull seemingly doesn't want to loan Lawson away, Mick Schumacher was seemingly not considered, Ayumu Iwasa is heading to Japan for Super Formula next year, and 2023 Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire could easily go the same way.
I think Williams giving Sargeant a second year to see if he can build upon his flashes of genuine form would be wise while the market resets itself with drivers like Bearman and Antonelli potentially on the table for 2025.
AlphaTauri threat too big to settle
I completely get the rationale behind sticking with the driver you know. It’s the least expensive option for a team that badly needs to invest elsewhere.
A rookie is likely (but not guaranteed) to do better in their second year. And there are no easy alternatives banging James Vowles’ door down. Sargeant is the safe choice.
But I think Williams needed to be bolder here - either by convincing Red Bull to loan out Liam Lawson, who was far more convincing in his five-race cameo than Sargeant was at any point in 22 races, or by spending a bit of cash to buy in someone more experienced who could better support Alex Albon.
Someone like Sebastian Vettel (OK, perhaps that's too rich for Williams at this stage), or Valtteri Bottas maybe - who might not have much of a long-term future where he is and perhaps could have been persuaded to jump ship with enough effort. ‘Valtteri, it’s James, how about we let bygones be bygones?’ etc.
Though the more expensive route, that would have had the dual effect of weakening a rival too. And tactics like this are well worth considering for a team in Williams’ position.
AlphaTauri finished 2023 on great form, with two strong drivers pushing each other on. Sauber might rebound after a tricky season balancing its chosen aero map with the ideal rideheight. If Haas can figure out how not to destroy Pirelli tyres on all but a handful of circuits that team could be a real force in 2024.
It wouldn’t take much for Williams to turn an impressive seventh place back into plum last in the constructors’ championship. And if the fight is closer, it can’t rely on Albon to score 96% of the points.
Sergeant certainly has a turn of speed in him, but nothing he did in 2023 suggests he’s on a clear upward trajectory, or is capable of stringing a properly competitive and clean weekend together.
Sargeant hasn't done enough to make his extension a no-brainer, but hasn't been so bad that there's an urgent need to replace him.
There's a crop of exciting talent set to be coming along this time next year but not yet ready for F1. Therefore replacing Sargeant would potentially make that replacement a short-term deal anyway, so why not give Sargeant the opportunity of utilising the experience he has built up in 2023?
He's shown flashes of promise and should be able to string those flashes together more consistently in his second year.
It's not a surprising decision at all.