“I have to prioritise the team above all else” — Vowles on the decision to give Sargeant’s car to Albon for F1 Australian GP

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Williams Team Principal James Vowles has detailed the decision to give Logan Sargeant’s chassis and car to Alex Albon for the remainder of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

With just under 20 minutes left in opening practice, Albon went over the kerb at turn 6. He had a snap as the car bounced off it and hit the wall heavily at turn 7, skating down the track before eventually coming to a stop at turn 8. Albon and Sargeant had been sitting in P10 and P12 at the time.

Vowles talked about Albon’s incident and the promising start the team had before the crash.

“We had high hopes coming into this event. Last year in Melbourne we had a competitive package but we didn’t deliver in terms of points.

“This year we know that we have a well balanced package and a good foundation to work from, and indeed in the first few laps of FP1 everything looked to be in a very positive situation with the cars able to be around that top 10 region.

“As we fitted the soft tyres to Alex on his fast lap, he hit the kerb at turn 6. As he landed, it landed poorly and it speared him off into the wall. The damage was extensive.”

It was clear immediately that the Thai’s FW46 was badly damaged. Unfortunately worse news was to follow for Williams fans as the team confirmed they did not have a spare chassis. They had already stated Albon would be missing FP2 as they investigated the damage.

Sadly for them, it was confirmed the Thai’s chassis was unfixable at the track, as well as sizeable gearbox and power unit damage. It left them with one healthy car for Saturday and Sunday.

Vowles explained that such was the late nature of getting the FW46 ready for the Bahrain GP, a spare chassis fell down the list of urgent things to be completed. It was so tight that they almost had to run the 2023 car in Sakhir.

“The gearbox is split in two, the power unit has significant damage to it and the chassis was damaged beyond repair at the track on the front right corner.

“The main thing for me is that Alex is okay after that incident. It was a huge accident, you would have seen perhaps on TV just the amount of debris spread across the track and always in those circumstances driver’s health comes first and he’s okay.

“However, and this is the downside to things, we don’t have a spare chassis here in Melbourne with us.

“As a result of the work that took place across the winter, we stressed the organisation to the absolute limit. We pushed everything as far as it could do and what it meant as a result of that is off the back end of being very late on some of the production the spare chassis started to move backwards.

“No team plans to come to an event without a spare chassis. In doing so you create risk. In the absolute best case, it’s uncomfortable. And in the worst case, one of the cars is not racing — and that’s the situation we face today.

“We have to ensure that we never ever put ourselves in that situation again going forward in the future. We are here to go racing and to only have one car here on Saturday and Sunday simply isn’t what we’re built to do.”

Finally, the Williams boss explained his call to give Albon Sargeant’s car. In such a tight fight behind the top 5 teams, every race and point matters for Williams as they fight Haas, RB F1, Sauber and Alpine for P6 in the standings.

Since they have been teammates, Albon has outqualified Sargeant for every single Grand Prix, and he outscored the Floridian 27-1 last season.

Vowles praised Sargeant for how he has dealt with the situation.

“I’ve made the decision for Logan not to be racing this weekend and for Alex to take the chassis and continue on behalf of Williams Racing on Saturday and Sunday. It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve made so far whilst here in this organisation.

“The midfield is so incredibly tight that a point or two or more may make the difference at the end of the season between being 10th or being 6th. The spread of our cars at the moment is milliseconds. And as much as it pains me to see a driver that through no fault of their own won’t be racing on Sunday, I have to prioritise the team above all else.

“Logan has been tremendous. He’s here to support the team in this regard. He’s clearly very much hurting as a result of this decision but equally strong in as much as he knows the team above all else is the priority.

“What I can say is this, the chassis will be back in the UK as quick as we can possibly make it and will be repaired such that we’re able to race again in Japan with two cars.”