Editor’s note: This feature is a written companion to a narrative podcast episode that appears on the Ringer F1 Show feed. You can listen to it here or read a (lightly edited) version below.
I’m in the middle of England, idling impatiently behind a blue vehicle, waiting for the driver ahead of me to get going already. There’s a chill in the air, and also the smell of gasoline. The traffic includes a bunch of stone-faced guys in matching suits who seem to be no strangers to this sort of rush hour.
But this isn’t some tricky roundabout in the British countryside. It’s the tricky roundabout in the British countryside: the 5.9-kilometer-long Silverstone Circuit, home of the British Grand Prix and the heart of the whole beautiful, baffling enterprise of competitive motorsport.
The guy I’m waiting on is Logan Sargeant, a 22-year-old rookie Formula One driver who’s about to take off in an overgrown toy car that cost a good eight figures to develop and build. It’s mid-February, a few weeks away from Sargeant’s official F1 debut for Williams Racing. And the Florida Man is preparing to be the first American driver on the F1 grid since 2015, and the first full-time American driver in 16 years.
Which is why he’s here in this big garage hangar in the U.K., getting nestled into a hot-off-the-press vehicle called the FW45. He’s about to take it for a few spins around the block for the very first time. “There’s nothing more enjoyable,” he tells me early that morning, “than driving around one of the fastest cars in the world.”
Sargeant has been eager for this day ever since it was announced last fall that he would be one of two drivers for Williams this season. Or, actually, he’s been eager for it way longer than that: Sargeant has been steering this direction ever since he was a little kid racing go-karts in South Florida, before he crossed the pond as a tween in pursuit of career acceleration.
“Growing up karting in America,” Sargeant says, “everyone always talked about how good the competition was in Europe. So it was sort of just, ‘OK, well, let’s go find out and let’s give it a go.’”
Now, a decade later, his F1 arrival coincides with a surge of American interest, and investment, in the sport. The documentary series Drive to Survive has been a smash hit for Netflix and for Formula One. U.S.-based companies have circled and purchased teams. ESPN has seen a ratings bonanza, with viewership doubling since it took over F1 coverage in the States.
This year, the United States is scheduled to host not one, not two, but three Grands Prix—a big deal, especially for a country that has been thought of as a nonfactor in the F1 world for quite some time. The first of those races will be in May in Miami, something of a homecoming for Sargeant.
That homecoming will take place earlier than just about anyone had expected. Last year, racing in the stepping-stone Formula Two circuit, Sargeant placed fourth overall—respectable, but hardly world-beating. For much of that season, it wasn’t even clear whether he would manage to qualify for a spot in Formula One at all.
But he did, and so now here he is, being installed in his car for a test drive. Installed! The process reminds me of a bride getting put into her wedding dress by a half dozen of her closest friends. There are a lot of straps involved, and a whole custom bodice, and it does not look particularly comfortable. When it’s over and Sargeant is finally snug inside the cockpit, all I can see of him is the American flag on his helmet.
A team of engineers and mechanics—those guys in the matching suits—waltz around the car, bending and swooping and rearranging tire covers just so. All day long, this place has been pretty loud, with lots of drilling and squeaking and clattering. The giant dispenser of earplugs that stands inside the door made sense as soon as I walked in. But now it has gotten incredibly quiet—a sure sign that something important is about to go down.
Sargeant’s car roars to life. One of the mechanics attaches a vent hose over the exhaust pipe, and another lowers the car from its lift.
And then just like that, the rookie is off, and the big experiment is on.
There’s a rude drone loitering just off the balcony of my hotel room when I wake up early on a Monday morning. Normally, this would unnerve me, but at this hotel, it kind of blends in with the scenery.
The scenery, in this case, is Silverstone, a storied expanse of land that has, over time, hosted all manner and manor of community: 12th-century Benedictine monks, 14th-century royal hunting lodges, 20th-century wartime air bomber fleets. But these days? Silverstone hosts cars. Lots and lots of the world’s most exquisitely engineered cars.
Since the late 1940s, Silverstone has been one of Formula One’s most hallowed racetracks, its paved course winding around old aircraft runways and surrounded by oak trees. The typical crowd is part rowdy campers, with tents dotting the countryside adjacent to the field, and part stylish who’s whos arriving in jets and helicopters. Everyone I ask about Silverstone—an F1 executive, a museum docent, a chauffeur, a random guy in a parking lot—brims with pride when discussing its importance in racing.
“I think most people will say, when you think of Silverstone, it’s almost synonymous with Formula One,” says Brandon Snow, the managing director of commercial and marketing for Formula One. “People camping out all around for days. It’s just got this really unique appeal.” A local limo driver named Mohammad Sadiq says that he and his colleagues always look forward to spiriting VIPs to their five-plus-figure private boxes at Grand Prix events. “When we have these high-end clients, we have the VIP tickets, and we get to go to the pits and look at the cars and see the drivers,” he says. “We all look forward to Silverstone.”
As does a nice chap named Ben, a poor stranger I run into in a parking lot. “The atmosphere here beats anything else in the motorsport world,” Ben says. “I went to Abu Dhabi one year. To Belgium one year as well—Spa. That’s something as well. But still not quite Silverstone.”
Sargeant is a fan himself, in large part because Silverstone is where he earned one of his two F2 victories. “Some would call it the home of motorsport, that’s for sure,” he says. “For myself it’s a special place. I absolutely love driving here. I love the flow, I love the nature of the track, and it’s always been super kind to me.”
Right now, this special place is mostly empty, and I’m staying in a brand-new trackside hotel that just opened in the fall. February is definitely a low-demand time of year—which is great news for me, because it means I’ve been upgraded to a room with a sweet plexiglass balcony overlooking Hamilton Straight, which serves as the famed start and finish line of the British Grand Prix.
I can imagine that on a real race day, the nightly rate for my hotel room would skyrocket many tens of times over. But what I don’t have to imagine is the drones. The one hovering near my balcony is setting up shop to film footage of the event I’m here to witness: Williams Racing’s “Shakedown Day.”
“It’s a bit nerve-racking, actually,” says 27-year-old Alex Albon, another Williams driver, of Shakedown Day. “You test a car for the first time over. It’s been almost four or five months the team have been working on this car. It determines your year. So you want it to go well, let’s say.”
Together, Albon and Sargeant have the same goal: to earn points for Williams. But while the two are colleagues, they’re also direct competitors. They both drive a copy of the same car—the FW45—so sometimes their best opportunity to show off their skill apples to apples is by beating each other.
“We’re teammates, but weirdly, we’re also rivals” is how Albon puts it.
“I think it’s important,” Sargeant says, “to have that healthy competition. Because that’s what pushes us as drivers forward, and that will ultimately push the team forward.”
Today isn’t a race, however; it’s just a test run. Both drivers will get a few laps in the FW45s. They’ll push the cars a bit to see how they respond. Then they’ll come back to a small empire of auto technicians with feedback. And there can be a lot of feedback.
“There’s hundreds of thousands of things you can tune the car to do,” says Albon. “Which one do you choose? That’s the art.”
I stand by and watch as Sargeant and his car zoom out of the garage. He navigates the 5.9-kilometer track and all its infamous nooks and crannies. He accelerates through the Wellington Straight and hugs the Maggotts and Becketts Curves. He makes a return to the garage to have his car essentially dismantled and reconstructed in minutes based on his feedback. During another lap, he makes a pit stop that takes only seconds. The crew replaces entire car parts in less time than it takes to change the batteries in a remote control.
From the hangar I walk to a grassy area where I can get a better view of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment when the rookie drives by. I feel and hear Sargeant coming before I can see him: first a tremble, then a rumble. And then, once again, all I can really see of the kid is his Lego-man helmet passing by at triple-digit speeds, whether you’re measuring in kilometers or miles per hour.
By the end of the day, Albon and Sargeant have combined for 17 test laps, and everyone seems to be in high spirits. Inside the garage, workers disassemble the cars as well as the entire operation—all the computers, the food stations, the giant pop-up work trailers that look kind of like enormous Transformers. They blast music and move with the seasoned, no-nonsense ease of a bunch of U2 roadies.
I run into Sargeant out on the tarmac, and it seems like there’s a weight off his shoulders. Baby’s first F1 Shakedown, done and dusted! He leans toward me with a smile and delivers some end-of-day preseason advice: “Buy low, sell high.”
In most sports, even being the best of the best still means being part of a sizable community. There are 32 NFL franchises out there, and each one of them is allowed to carry 53 active players on the roster. Or take the other kind of football: There are 20 teams in the Premier League, each with 25 players. Even if you ignore the team sports and turn to one of the most individual sports imaginable—golf—there are initially something like 144 people in a typical PGA tournament field.
And then there’s Formula One, where currently 10 teams vie for the Constructors Championship, and each team enters with two cars and two drivers. That’s it. “It gets thin at the top,” says Snow. “F1 is where you’re talking 20 drivers.”
And none of those drivers have ever had much time to lose. “F1 drivers grow up quick,” says Snow. “They’re driving super-fast cars that they’re putting their life on the line every time they get behind it. And they have been since they were 12 years old.”
Sargeant was even younger than that when he first began racing go-karts near his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His older brother, Dalton, was doing it, too, and Logan wanted to keep up.
“I started when I was 6,” he says. “I took it super seriously, even though I didn’t realize it was just more a bit of fun. You have that competitive nature, and you always want to win. And I mean, looking back at it, I probably should have taken it a little bit less serious, but maybe that’s what sets you up when you get to Formula cars.”
He is smiling at some memory as he says this, and I ask him what “serious” means. “I just really hated losing,” he says. “A lot of the times I was also going up against kids that were older than me. So you have to dig deeper and figure out how you can eventually get to where they are and ultimately beat them. So that was the mindset.”
Sargeant grew up rooting for NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. He loved pretty much nothing more than going fishing off the Florida coast with his family and friends. But at age 12, he left NASCAR, deep-sea fishing, middle school, and the entire United States behind to relocate abroad and chase the karting dream.
“I was 12 years old when I moved to Switzerland,” says Sargeant. “I’d been to Italy quite a bit for karting just before then, and so I was relatively familiar with the area, I guess. And then it was a pretty smooth transition because it was an American school, so everyone spoke English. And I was so young at the time, I probably didn’t really understand what was actually going on, so it just felt pretty natural.”
Plus, his drive transcended international waters and borders. “I’d say the competitive mindset just got stronger and stronger and stronger,” Sargeant says.
In 2015, when Sargeant was 14, he won the world junior karting title in Italy, beating out a few dozen young competitors from around the globe. It was a victory that put him in esteemed company: Current F1 drivers like Albon, Charles Leclerc, and Fernando Alonso are all past world karting winners. The win was the first by an American since Lake Speed—now there’s an aptronym!—in 1978. Soon afterward, Sargeant graduated to a new class of cars.
“I think I remember the first day he did in a car, when he was probably about 14 or 15,” says Jamie Chadwick, a 24-year-old driver from England who was in the Williams Academy developmental program with Sargeant last season. A three-time champion on the women’s W Series circuit, Chadwick is spending this season racing Indy NXT cars against men in the United States as a member of Andretti Autosport—though she’s still part of the Williams-sphere, too.
“He was a lot smaller than he is now,” Chadwick says of Sargeant. “And he didn’t talk, so he has now developed some sort of social skills, which is good, but bless him.”
She smiles, though she’s serious. “Yeah, he is cool to see, someone like that,” she says. “I mean, he obviously was, I think, a world champion in karting at the time, so he is spoken about highly and one of the young hotshots that was always going to go through. But I think now to see him actually graduate, especially at the Williams Academy into that Formula One seat, it’s cool.”
As recently as early 2021, however, Sargeant wasn’t feeling like much of a hotshot. While he had performed well on the Formula Three circuit, he was struggling to find anyone willing to give him a shot in Formula Two. And for a time, it kind of felt like the end of the road. “Yeah, I mean, there were times where I was just completely over it,” he says. “I just got to the point where it just felt it was just enough. I had enough of it.”
Racing cars is a lonely pursuit, no matter how many voices come through a driver’s earpiece. In the end, there’s only one person in that car—though Logan says he’s had to learn to leave some of his self-reliant mentality on the track. “It was definitely a point in my life where I leaned on people more than I ever have,” he says. “I tend to try and not lean on people as much as I can. That goes for my parents, my brother, my trainer, my managers, and there was a relatively big and good group of people around me.”
His chance to move up finally arrived later that year, in October 2021, when he signed to the Williams Academy ranks on a long-term deal. By December of that year, the team was entering him in the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi: a showcase and a show of confidence that “probably tops the best day of my racing career,” Sargeant told reporters at the time.
“Williams, at the end of 2021,” he says now, welcomed “me with open arms, threw me into my first F1 test about a month later. I’ve absolutely loved it. They’ve helped me grow as a person, as a driver.” And Williams Racing is really hoping that this young driver might help the team grow in the right direction, too.
How to properly summarize Williams Racing? It turns out to be a little bit like trying to explain the New York Knicks.
“Uh, former greatness,” says Ben, the random chap I approach in the Silverstone Museum parking lot, when I ask him to describe Williams.
“Well, it used to be really, really successful,” says the manager of the Bay Tree Pub in Grove, U.K., where Williams HQ is located. “But just recently it’s been the bottom of the table. So some people laugh, some people …” he trails off. “They still are our local team.”
For four of the past five seasons, Williams has finished in last place among F1’s 10 teams. “Williams is like the shit version of Mercedes, basically,” says a bloke in an NFL jersey who is at a Milton Keynes pub well past midnight to see an airing of the Super Bowl. (To be fair, I’m there too.)
“Williams didn’t have the best of years last year,” says F1 executive Snow, “and they’re such a historical brand in this sport that is doing everything they can to try to get back into points and get back into some level of contention.”
I ask a taxi driver what that historical brand means to him. “Well,” he says, “Mr. Williams himself.”
Mr. Williams is the late Frank Williams, an auto racing godfather and the “FW” part of the FW45 vehicle name. The story goes that Williams, a sort of colorful, British Ted Turner figure, was given a ride in a friend’s Jaguar XK150 in the late 1950s and fell in love with both gorgeous conveyances and high speeds.
After a few false starts, he launched the enterprise known as Williams Grand Prix Engineering in 1977. Between 1980 and 1997, the team won nine Constructors Championships. Only Ferrari—which has competed in F1 racing since the 1950s—has won more to date.
But those were the glory days; this is the now. In August 2020, Williams was sold to Dorilton Capital, a private U.S.-based investment firm. (It wasted no time in naming Pippa Middleton’s husband, a former race car driver named James Matthews, to the board.) Both Williams and his daughter, Claire, who had been the deputy team principal since 2013, stepped away from leadership of the team that September. A few months ago, the team’s principal and its technical director departed.
Williams, in other words, has been down kinda bad. Which is why it’s trying to make a bet with some upside.
Williams may feature Formula One’s lone American driver, but there’s only one F1 operation that is physically located in the United States. That’s Haas, based in North Carolina. In late January, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner gave a cheeky interview to the Austin, Texas–based TV station KVUE. When asked about having an American driver in the F1 mix, Steiner said, “I wish that he makes experience. And then once he has made experience, he comes to us, the American team. How about that?”
Finding F1 inroads within the U.S. has been a race of its own. Haas has a physical foothold. Then there’s Williams, of course, with its Floridian racer and its brand-new partnership with the American oil company Gulf. And Red Bull, the program currently at the top of the F1 heap, chose to hold its 2023 launch day in New York City.
The Yankee influence even goes all the way to the top now. In 2016, the American entertainment behemoth Liberty Media, which also owns SiriusXM and the Atlanta Braves, bought Formula One for a reported $4.4 billion. (The seller was the very Succession-sounding company “Delta Topco.”) And in 2019, the real domestic growth catalyst appeared: Drive to Survive, which helped bring about an explosion of American interest in what had largely been a faraway sport.
“For us,” says Snow, “from a pure business perspective, what’s happening with Formula One in the U.S. right now is clearly a moment.”
When ESPN started airing the sport in 2018, the network had acquired the rights for next to nothing. Drive to Survive launched on Netflix the following year, and by 2022, F1 ratings on ESPN’s family of networks had more than doubled, averaging upward of 1.2 million viewers per race. Which was great news … but also made the TV rights much more expensive. Last summer, ESPN won a full-fledged bidding war against competitors like Netflix, Amazon, and NBC to broadcast races. And the reward is that ESPN now gets to pay Formula One somewhere between $75 million and $90 million a season.
“You know, one in two fans in the U.S. of Formula One are new within the last couple of years,” Snow says. “And within that, we have almost 30 percent of our fans under the age of 35.”
All this increased coverage has been a virtuous circle. ESPN gives viewers the live action; Drive to Survive fills them in on the context, the personalities, the beautiful people and places, and the drama. And around and around we go.
“If you were not in the sport or you didn’t visit it, then it was very difficult to give a picture more than cars that race around the track around the world,” says Williams Racing sporting director Sven Smeets. “I think that Drive to Survive helped the people to actually understand what is going on in the teams, between the teams, and has attracted a different audience to the sport.”
It also helped Albon meet his girlfriend, LPGA golfer Lily Muni He. She didn’t know anything about racing until she watched the series; then she started following various drivers on social media, and one thing led to another. Albon says, “When I come to America now—my girlfriend, she’s from L.A.—the amount I get noticed now compared to where I was three years ago is huge. It’s blown up.” Albon has also noticed F1 sponsors “becoming American,” he says. “It’s a takeover, which has made the sport healthier than it’s ever been before. It’s great.”
This year, the U.S. will play host to three different Grand Prix races. There’s Miami in May, a glitzy event where stars go to see and be seen; the paddock will be located in the middle of the Miami Dolphins’ football field. In October there’s Austin, where some 440,000 people visited during the race weekend last year. And for the first time in more than 40 years, there’s a Las Vegas race in November, a Saturday-night event with part of the racecourse running down the Strip. “Outlandish” is how Snow describes it. “It’s literally going to be this massive spectacle,” he says. “I hope the racing is good.”
Your move, Fight Night! Or maybe that’s not the right comparison. “F1 is like taking a Super Bowl on the road 23 times,” Snow says.
On the day I plan to visit Williams headquarters, I wake up to the warbling birdsong of dunnocks and wrens, a far more pleasant sound than yesterday’s drone. I’m at a different hotel now, one near Grove, England, where the Williams factory (and museum and wind tunnel) has been based since the mid-’90s. This hotel is old and built of stone, and I keep expecting to see someone from the Downton Abbey family emerging from the gardens in the morning mist.
Later, on the way to the Williams campus, my taxi driver tries to impress upon me just how wild the F1 experience is. “You got to remember, I mean, I’m only doing 60, 70,” he says, “but those cars are 150, 200 miles per hour. And you know, it’s a blink of an eye, and it’s gone. You go to the racetrack, you hear the awesome noise coming—and then you blink an eye and the car’s gone.”
Having now seen that firsthand, I know exactly what he means. But there’s also something I’ve learned when chatting with drivers, which is: The top speed isn’t really the thing.
“You’ll get it a lot where you’re asked the top speed, but actually you never focus on the top speed,” Chadwick says.
Sargeant agrees: “A lot of people ask, ‘What’s it like? How fast do you go?’ And it’s honestly a really bad question because, yeah, OK, you go really fast in a straight line, but that’s not really what’s impressive.” (The acceleration, Albon says, “is the least impressive thing about F1.”)
What is impressive, Sargeant says, is that “the rate of deceleration, how good the brakes are, how efficient the aero is, how much speed you can carry through the corners, the amount of grip that you have, the force that it puts on your body at maximum load is just next level. It’s really almost impossible to understand unless you’ve experienced it.”
“I describe it as you’re driving, you’re sitting on a roller coaster, but you’re going faster than that and you are in control of it,” Albon says. “You’re the one dictating where that roller coaster goes.”
When I arrive at the team’s campus and head into the manufacturing wing, it doesn’t smell like gasoline or greasy tools, and there aren’t the usual clanks and clatters you’d expect at a local Jiffy Lube. No—this place mostly smells of … computers. And it sounds like some sort of radiology lab.
Which makes sense: At one end of a hallway, near a door marked “Composite Manufacturing,” is an X-ray unit. It’s designed not for human bones, but rather for tiny car parts—to see and diagnose an imperceptible hairline fracture in a paper-thin sheet of metal that could slow a car down. A plaque in the middle of the “Metallic Machinery” room thanks Williams for helping manufacture ventilators to help early COVID-19 patients.
From there, I go up to chat with Smeets, the Williams sporting director, in his office. He has a giant wall calendar all marked up with the various dates of far-flung F1 races. When I point out that there sure is a lot going on, he jokes that his kids have the opposite calendar on their wall, with all the dates that he’s actually home.
It has been a hectic few months at Williams. In late December, both the team principal, Jost Capito, and Williams’s technical director abruptly departed. The team hired James Vowles from Mercedes as its new head, but he won’t officially begin until late February. Smeets is in good spirits, though. Shakedown went well. “People that have done these kinds of rollouts for 20 years,” he says, “they all said this morning that it was the best rollout they ever had.” And as for Sargeant: “I think he did very well,” Smeets says. “I think he was very eager to start today and maybe a little bit too eager, because he has been waiting for this moment now for a very long time.”
A very long time? Logan is only 22. But when you’ve been racing cars since you were barely out of kindergarten, time has a way of feeling a little out of whack. Sargeant’s ascent to Formula One actually came earlier than Smeets and most others would have expected. In early January, Smeets told reporters that Williams had originally planned to wait until 2024 for Sargeant’s debut, giving him two Formula Two seasons to develop.
But last fall, Williams decided to part ways with Nicholas Latifi, an underperforming driver. And the team announced plans to replace him with Sargeant.
There was one problem: Sargeant hadn’t yet picked up enough of what are called Super Licence points to qualify to drive in F1, and he had to have a strong showing in the final F2 race of the season to be eligible for his own promotion.
“I think he was under a lot of pressure last year, and he had to deal with that for quite a long period,” Smeets says. (When Williams made the announcement, Logan’s next and final race was still several agonizing weeks away.) Sargeant doesn’t love to admit to any weakness, but he would agree. “Yeah, that was definitely probably the highest pressure I’ve been under,” he says.
People often ask Sargeant whether he feels a lot of pressure this season as the lone American representative on the grid. But after the last couple of years he’s had? Not really. “I feel like, coming into this season, I’m as relaxed as I’ve ever been, to be honest with you,” he says. “I’m very aware of the challenge ahead and how difficult it’s going to be, but I also understand that I need to build into the year, I need to learn a lot. And I trust my ability.”
Sargeant remembers when, in early 2021, he thought maybe his F1 dream had spun out entirely. Looking back, he says that low point provides both motivation and reassurance. “I mean, it definitely makes you a lot stronger, that’s for sure,” he says. “I think it also puts you to a place where it’s like, ‘I never want to experience that again,’ which makes you more motivated to make sure you do everything you can in your power to be the best you can be. But in saying that, you’ve also been through it, so you don’t have that fear of what it’s like. Yeah, I think you realize, no matter what happens, life will move on, and you’ll figure it out, no matter what.”
At the Bay Tree Pub, it’s fairly common for folks to wander in with Formula One on their minds. Lots of locals, after all, have some connection to the industry. “We get a good crowd in for it when it’s on, especially for the British Grand Prix,” the manager tells me. “It’s just because it’s local. People work up at the factory locally, so the people are interested to see how they do.”
On the other hand, since I’m not a local, I’m being viewed with curiosity, even suspicion, by other patrons. When I tell an inquiring woman that I live in the U.S., she says—not unkindly, but also maybe not particularly kindly?—“Just seems weird, doesn’t it? Reporting in America and then coming all the way to the U.K.?”
It does seem weird. I came here for this team? But I’m glad I did because I’ve seen so much now. The innovation and the spectacle. The personality quirks. The way the F1 drivers possess necks of steel but also the most slender hips I’ve ever seen. The wonder of a crew of mechanics in motion who simultaneously resemble a troupe of ballerinas, a team of brain surgeons, a rush of commuters at Grand Central, and my young sons dismantling their toys. The unfathomable sums of money being incinerated before everyone’s eyes. The passion of the fans and the beautiful bluntness of the locals: Williams “have been a bit rubbish,” the pub manager says.
What would a non-rubbish season look like for Sargeant, and for Williams? During the opening race weekend in Bahrain in early March, Albon told a reporter that he was “more pessimistic than optimistic” about his team’s chances, and that he didn’t really anticipate Williams climbing out of the 10th spot this year.
But Williams performed well in that first race; Albon earned a point by placing 10th, and Sargeant finished in 12th, ahead of the grid’s other two rookie drivers. Since then, things have gotten slightly rougher. Sargeant finished 16th in Saudi Arabia and was involved in a wreck near the end of the Australian Grand Prix. Still, his confidence and command have impressed many around the paddock.
At an F1 press conference in Saudi Arabia in mid-March, new Williams team principal Vowles admitted that a few years ago, when he was working for Mercedes, he had passed on an opportunity to sign Sargeant.
“Williams funded him because they had deep belief that he was the real deal,” he remarked to the media. “My reticence came from the fact that, prior to that, it’s difficult to really judge him.” Sargeant was young, and Vowles didn’t have much to go on at the time. “But I have to say,” Vowles continued, “he’s now been in the [F1] car. I now have the ability to look at his data. He is here on merit. And as a result of Williams investing correctly in him, he’s now a professional driver—deserving driver!—on the grid at the same time.”
Vowles gave a tiny, self-deprecating smirk. “So it just shows you that in my previous life, I was wrong and Williams were right,” he said.
For Sargeant, the journey so far has been a lot like an F1 race: It’s happening fast, and there are a lot of sharp corners. It requires resilience, and a lot of endurance. “I think mistakes are much more punished in F1,” he says. “It’s definitely on a knife’s edge for the most part.” In other words, it’s painful … and it’s the most fun thing he can imagine. It’s a big business and a small world. And it’s exactly where he wants to be.