Vowles says he has “faith” in Sargeant but admits it will be “very difficult” to rebuild confidence after sacrificial withdrawal from F1 Australian GP

Photo credit: Williams Racing
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On Friday it was announced that Logan Sargeant will be sidelined for the remainder of the Australian Grand Prix weekend after Williams made the controversial decision to reallocate his chassis to teammate Alex Albon.

Albon crashed heavily during the first practice session of the weekend, and consequently had to miss FP2.

Although Albon thankfully walked away from the crash uninjured, the impact caused significant damage to the FW46, rendering the chassis irreparable at the circuit. As the team hadn’t managed to deliver a spare chassis in time, they made the call to let Albon pilot Sargeant’s car for the remainder of the weekend.

Williams’ decision sparked widespread debate online, leading many to accuse team principal James Vowles of not having faith in Sargeant, despite choosing to retain him for 2024.

“No, I don’t think that’s the case. The fact I re-signed him shows you I have faith in him,” Vowles argued. “This year, I think you’ve seen he’s been closer to Alex than before. 

“However, I have one car and just one car.”

He explained the reasoning behind his decision, saying, “There are five very fast teams taking up those top 10 positions—there’s no points apart from if you’re in the top 10, and there’s one point separating the bottom five teams at the moment.

“And so every point will make a difference between now and the end of the year, therefore you put your money on the driver that so far this year has been slightly ahead of the other one, which is Alex.

“So I’ve reset everything, taken a view from Bahrain, taken the view from Saudi and taken the view from here, which of the two drivers is most likely to score a point.”

Asked about rebuilding Sargeant’s confidence, Vowles responded, “First and foremost, it’s very difficult to do.

“You have an elite athlete that’s doing nothing but what I’ve asked him to do this year. He hasn’t made a single mistake; he didn’t put a foot wrong across this year.

“Yet, I’ve taken him out of the car. So that would damage your confidence.

“One of the methods I’ve been putting in place with him so far is structure, including he and I talking about where his strengths are, and where are his weaknesses, help and support in terms of his surroundings in order to move him forward.

“The truth behind it is, with a racing driver, when they get in the car again, which for him now will be in Japan, and he ends up within milliseconds of Alex—which is what he’s been doing the last few races—you’ll see the confidence flows back anyway.”

Vowles commended Sargeant—who was present in the garage on Saturday—for being a team player, praising his mature handling of the unprecedented situation.

“He understands this is a team sport. It’s the weirdest sport in the world, where I’ve got two drivers, but it’s a team sport.

“One of the reflections I had is I nowhere near had his maturity when I was his age. He’s frustrated by it because he wants to be performing at the highest level but equally he understands and recognises that as a team sport, I’ve had to make one of the hardest decisions so far in my position here.”