Much has been said and written about the ruthless manner in which rookie Nyck de Vries was sacked by Red Bull after just 10 races for their junior team AlphaTauri yet even after one race the decision to bring back Daniel Ricciardo has been justified.
With little time in the back of the grid car, Ricciardo out qualified his team mate and despite being shunted from behind by Chinese driver Zhou at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the ever positive Aussie came from plumb last to P13 finishing ahead of team mate Tsunoda at the chequered flag.
Tsunoda under pressure but…
Yuki will now be under extreme pressure to prove himself over the final 11 Grand Prix of the year given he is now in his third year of Formula One and should be pushing to complete his apprenticeship and be ready to drive along side Max Verstappen.
The Japanese driver was recruited by Red Bull in a sponsorship deal with Honda, but with the Milton Keynes team now paying for their engines Yuki will have to stand on his own two feet and the early signs when comparing him to Daniel Ricciardo are not good.
Ricciardo appeared to drive within himself over the weekend at the Hungaroring given most commentators believed he had a race or two to familiarise himself with the AlphaTauri before comparisons would be made with his team mate.
Despite early warning signs for Tsunoda his F1 career might be coming to an end this year, there is another driver under the microscope whose performances were recently described by his team principle as “here on merit” even though the American rookie was recruited by the previous team principal.
American F1 driver under scrutiny
Logan Sargeant has the worst performance record when compared to his team mate, Alex Albon. Albon who was sacked from Red Bull from his drive alongside Max Verstappen has dominated the American, 11-0 in qualifying and and 9-1 in terms of finishing ahead in the races.
De Vries was 2-8 and 2-8 by comparison with Tsunoda before he was sacked.
The Red Bull junior team driver on average was around two places behind Tsunoda in qualifying and a similar number of places back in the races.
Sargeant F1 record is ‘shocking’
Sargeant’s record is shocking by comparison with an average grid position of 17.64 while Albon is 12.45. Over races they have completed the gap is slightly smaller with the Thai driver averaging a finishing position of 11.44 while the American is down with 16.00.
In most team sports when the boss has to repeatedly assure the public a certain competitors position is safe and they are performing to expectations, the dreaded vote of confidence often precedes the reality which often involves a parting of the ways.
James Vowles was appointed the boss of Williams following the shock departure over the winter of his predecessor Jost Capito. Yet the dismissal of Canadian driver Nick Lafiti and the recruitment of Logan Sargeant was completed before the ex-Mercedes senior man took charge at Williams.
Mercedes F1 previously rejected Logan
Vowles recently admitted he had evaluated Sargent for the Mercedes junior programme following some surprising performances in Formula 3.
“He came to Mercedes as a sim evaluation [driver] and I was interested in looking at him because he had performance, especially when you go back to his Formula 3 performance in an average team,” said Vowles.
“At the time in Mercedes, we had a good suite of drivers, so that was where my relationship with him ended.
Williams boss ‘protests too much’
Vowles went on to give the first American to drive in F1 since Alexander Rossi the dreaded vote of confidence claiming:
“I now have the ability to look at his data, and he is here on merit,” he told Motorsport.com.
Yet over the past couple of months James Vowles appears to be ‘protesting’ a little too often over how well Sargeant is doing whilst the team mate comparison data does not lie.
This smacks of a manager attempting to encourage and provide confidence for his employee who for everyone else can plainly see is sinking and not swimming.
Sargeant facing the ‘stopwatch’ game
The Williams boss recently excused his rookie driver’s performances because he’d been reading at circuits which the junior categories don’t visit and claimed Sargeant would improve when he was in more familiar surroundings.
Now with just three remaining European tracks to go, Logan is running out of excuses and will need to buck his ideas up.
Ex-McLaren F1 driver and now Channel 4 F1 TV presenter Dave Coulthard is not impressed by Sargeant’s performances reminding his viewers Formula One is a “stopwatch” game first and foremost.
Coulthard’s stopwatch analysis has Sargeant Half a second slower than his team mate, which the Scott says is the biggest deficit between team mates on this season’s grid.
Sargeant worsten the grid
The Channel 4 pundit believes Logan is being given more latitude than De Vries because he is an old fashioned ‘pay driver’ something his team principal has vehemently rejected thus far.
With the boom across the Atlantic with the American people taking to Formula One in their droves Coulthard argues the Williams academy graduate has created interest amongst USA corporate sponsors and has delivered important funding to the team.
“I actually don’t think it’s a matter of time, it’s a matter of pace,”Coulthard candidly stated when questioned whether 10 races had been enough time to evaluate De Vries F1 potential.
“This is a stopwatch championship, so you either deliver the lap time or you don’t.
Old fashioned F1 “pay driver”
“He was on average within about two-and-a-half tenths of Yuki Tsunoda, which actually, the worst-performing person on average is Logan Sargeant in the Williams, he’s half-a-second away from Alex Albon.
“He’s bringing money to the team and given a bit of space, American, that fits I guess the overall growth of Formula 1 right now.
Coulthard maintains lap times should be the only crate by which an F1 driver is judged rather than nationality of other softer criteria.
“So I think we should only ever look at the lap time rather than…this isn’t a personality competition.”
Vowles predicts better times
There has been a glimmer of hope that Sergeant will begin to repay his team principal’s vote of confidence following James Vowles comments prior to the Austrian Grand Prix.
“He’s not your typical rookie. If you take some of the rookies on the grid today, they’ve done 11,000 kilometers of F1 testing before they drive the car. That is where we have a problem because Logan is still trying to learn all that development cycle throughout,” said Vowles restating his case that the rookie is about par to date.
The Williams’ boss then suggested with five street races in the first third of venues F1 visited this year, Logan could not push the car to its limits for fear of a big crash and costing the team hundreds of thousands in budget spend.
Sargeant edges closer to Albon
Vowles then made a prediction which in part came to pass:
“For me at the moment, Logan is here in Austria and at Silverstone next week. Two tracks where he is the strongest in his junior career. He knows the tracks without a doubt. He has driven the car enough that he should be comfortable.
“What you’re now going to see, with Logan, is a strength coming through and a performance differentiator that closes down,” predicted Vowles.
In Austria and Silverstone Logan delivered his best race finishing positions claiming P13 and P11 respectively and his qualifying differential to Albon had reached by 0.1s. At the next race in Hungary it didn’t go well for Sargeant as he spun his Williams in the latter stages and the team decided to retire the car.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 25, 2023