Palmer: Williams wrong to sacrifice Sargeant after chassis drama

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Former Formula 1 driver Jolyon Palmer has described Williams' lack of a spare chassis in Australia as "absolutely baffling" after it meant Logan Sargeant was forced out of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

Sargeant had to hand over his chassis after his team mate Alex Albon wrecked his own car in a Friday practice accident. With repairs not possible in time, Williams boss James Vowles opted to bench Sargeant to allow Albon to compete.

Palmer said this had been the wrong decision by the team, and questioned why the team was in such a state that such a sacrifice on the American driver's part had even been necessary.

"Teams delay the build of their cars until late on in pre-season to maximise the design process, before locking in the decisions and creating the car," Palmer explained in his regular post-race column for

"This year Williams did this more than the rest, only hitting the track the day before the opening test of the year, in what was billed as an aggressive move by the team with a change of concept from last season’s design.

"Clearly the team had another car ready to go for the season opener a week later, but to not have a spare by round three is absolutely baffling," he complained.

Palmer argued that it was "not an acceptable way to go racing for a modern Formula 1 team in 2024", adding: "With any other team, Albon would have had a car rebuilt for FP2 and be back in the action with minimal cost.

"It only takes a mechanical issue or an overzealous rival to pitch your car into a wall," especially at a high speed circuit like Albert Park with little room to avoid the walls.


"It still isn’t great that Albon suffered a heavy impact so soon into a weekend, in a session that counts for nothing," Palmer continued. "Albon must take some responsibility for that.

"I’m sure Williams will have made their position clear to the drivers in these early rounds," he added. "[However] it’s one thing being told the situation with parts, but the driver still has to push and find the limits."

But it was the decision to effectively punish Sargeant for Albon's error that was the main issue as far as the ex-Renault driver was concerned.

"Having to choose which driver should race in Melbourne from Friday lunchtime onwards is a crazy position to be in, and unfair on both drivers," he argued. "I believe it was the wrong move.

"The logic was there," he conceded. "As you’d expect from Vowles, who is a strategist at heart. But I think that for a debatable upside, the damage on the other side of the garage was greater than any potential gain.

"It begs the question: why did they re-sign Sargeant for 2024 if they have such little confidence in him?" he asked.

"It might have been better to keep Logan in his own car, hope to gain a point anyway with a driver you’ve been publicly backing, and not create all of these question marks and damage morale.

"To see your car being stripped and set up for your team mate must take some getting over, no matter how magnanimous he was in public," Palmer said.

"It must be a very tough pill for Sergeant to swallow. After all, he wasn’t the one that crashed," Palmer said.

In the end, Albon wasn't able to finish in the top ten and secure a point for Williams after all. Had he done so, "the decision might have been vindicated" according to Palmer.

"But to me this was a short term view that didn’t consider the human factors involved, and it didn’t pay off," he said, adding that it might even galvanise Sargeant over the remainder of the season.

"More than ever now, the American has a point to prove. Not just to the media and the watching world, but to his own team."

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