Williams: Sargeant progress real but ‘masked’ by crashes

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Williams believes that Logan Sargeant’s driving has ‘steadily improved’ over the course of the 2023 season, but it’s also a fact that the young American’s multiple crashes have taken the shine off his progress.

Sargeant suffered a few mishaps and off-track excursions in the first part of his rookie season with Williams as he learned the ropes of F1.

But after the summer break, things got worse for the 22-year-old. At Zandvoort, Sargeant had done a remarkable job to haul himself into Q3 for the very first time in qualifying, only to crash on his first flyer in the segment.

On race day, a hydraulic issue also led to the Williams driver ending his day in the barrier.

In Japan last weekend, he again crashed in qualifying, severely damaging his FW45 to the extent that Williams was forced to build up a new car for Sunday’s event which forced Sargeant to start his race from the pitlane and with a 10-second penalty.

Alas, on lap 7, the American collided with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas at Suzuka’s Turn 11 hairpin, an incident that eventually yielded a DNF for both drivers.

Dave Robson, Williams’ head of vehicle performance believed that Sargeant’s progress of late has been genuine, as his diminished gap to Albon in qualifying at Suzuka showed. But the crashes have inevitably tarnished his advancements.

"I guess inevitably, they catch the headlines, don't they?," Robson said ahead of last weekend’s race in Japan quoted by Motorsport.com.

"I think it has kind of masked his steady performance and this weekend was actually going really well.

“It is such a difficult circuit to come to and he went about it really well on Friday, built on that on Saturday, and then lost it in the very last corner of the first lap ... and really, it was quite a minor mistake.

"It's just at that corner once you touch the grass, you're in a whole heap of trouble and it was a real shame.

"But yeah, I think it is fair that the crashes since Zandvoort have masked what otherwise has clearly been some steady improvement."

One insidious problem creeping up on Sargeant is that any additional crash damage might jeopardize his access to new-spec elements, not to mention the potential impact this could have on Williams’ 2024 development budget, although Robson was confident this would not be the case.

"To some extent, you end up having to drop back on specs, because for all of the long lead items and then having to ship them around the world, it's already too late to make more new ones, really, even if you had the money and the time to do it.

"It probably won't affect next year too much, because I think we've got enough parts.

"It just becomes a bit of a logistical exercise. How many do we want to actually ship out at the circuit? What do we send on to the next? What do we send back to the UK?

"And so I don't think there's too much panic. We'll need to get that chassis repaired, which will consume a little bit of time at the factory.

“But otherwise, we've got enough bits around this that we can carry on."

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