All eyes were on Logan Sargeant at Yas Marina and his bid to become the first American Formula 1 driver in eight years. Following multiple FP1 sessions with Williams in pursuit of extra Super Licence points for 2023, it came down to the Formula 2 finale to secure his drive for next year.
Sargeant was not only fighting for individual honours and the Anthoine Hubert Award as top rookie, but his potential F1 future. All of the attention and pressure was a hugely positive according to the 21-year-old.
“I was told after Monza that the seat would be mine as long as I got my Super Licence. I think that was a good thing because that allowed me to sort of mentally come to terms with what was at stake going into Abu Dhabi.
“It gave me the correct direction in terms of preparation for Abu Dhabi, and by the time I got to feeling the pressure, I feel like it was manageable and I didn't let it sort of overcome me at that point.”
Things didn’t start as he’d hoped for on Saturday in the Sprint Race. A tough start pushed him down the order and outside of the points in ninth on the opening lap. With the pre-race attention focused on him, Sargeant says his rivals were likely taking full advantage of what was at stake for him.
“I was just trying to find the right balance of risk versus reward really. Even though I had a very good start off the line, just a few things went wrong through Turns Two and Three. That put me on the back foot for the whole way in the run up to Turn 6. People were being extremely aggressive whereas in my situation, that approach would have been a bit too much for us to take at the end of the day.”
A Red Flag later on during the opening lap for a crash between Jehan Daruvala and Enzo Fittipaldi led to a resetting of the field, a break for Sargeant as he moved back up to P6. With both drivers involved out of the car and ok, barrier repairs in progress and time to kill, many drivers were relaxing ahead of the call to re-enter their cars.
Sargeant wasn’t one of those. The chance to get out of the car brought with it the potential to maximise even further, and he was studying every avenue possible to recover from his original start. With an eye on the details, Sargeant was seen comparing visors as the drivers stood in the pitlane waiting for the restart with the sun setting, as no stone went unturned in his pursuit of points.
“We got a bit unfortunate with the Red Flag. I was obviously glad both drivers were ok but for me, it meant I was back up to P6 and I made it work from there. With the visor, I had one that was slightly brighter than the other and the sun was starting to go down, so I was just trying to figure out which one I wanted to go with for the restart.
“After that, we were fighting for a few points, but it wasn’t going to completely make or break the weekend. I obviously wanted to finish as best that I could, but I don’t think the break made the biggest difference in that race.”
As the sun continued to go down, track and ambient temperatures cooled off and meant all the drivers were able to push a little harder than they might have before.
Without tyre conservation to worry about, the Sprint became a more straightforward battle to the flag and Sargeant held on for a points-scoring finish. It was a step in the right direction for his hopes heading into the Feature Race.
“It was just nice to post a semi-decent result on the board, grab a few points, make Sunday slightly easier I guess you could say. It was just good prep for the future, to be honest. There's not that many points up for grabs on Saturday, and it really all comes down Sunday.”
As many calculated all the permutations ahead of the final race of the F2 season, Sargeant meanwhile was keeping things uncomplicated. The goal for the American was the same as it always had been throughout the 2022 season: score as many points as possible.
“To be honest, I didn't even read into any of it. I don't even know what the situation on points was ahead of the race. I wasn't really that bothered, it was pretty simple for me. I knew I was in a good position and the goal was to go out and have a great race. That was really my mindset going into that final event.”
It was an approach that seemed to work with great effect. His difficult Saturday Sprint was quickly put out of mind and Sargeant enjoyed a much stronger drive during the Feature Race. He earned P5 and with it, an F1 Super Licence and place on the 2023 grid with Williams. Despite achieving such a huge milestone, the natural racer in Sargeant couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed he wasn’t contending further up the order.
“I think we had a really good day on Sunday compared to Saturday in terms of pace, I think the race just didn't quite fall into our hands. My teammate had priority over me which was very costly by the end of the race because the soft tyre was a very poor tyre on Sunday, and that cost us a lot of track position which ultimately put me in a bad position when I came back out the prime tyre.
“After that, I feel like it started to click. I feel like we managed the tyres well. We had really strong pace and we were able to start coming back through up to the end.
“I was very aware during the whole race that if I just finished fifth, sixth, seventh whatever it was, it was gonna be fine. So I wasn't I wasn't too stressed about that, it was just more about trying to get into fourth to claim third in the Championship. That was all I was thinking about.”
Graduating as top rookie in Formula 2, the newest member of the F1 grid started his work as a fully-fledged F1 driver immediately. Part of his and Williams’ efforts to gain a Super Licence ahead of next year meant Sargeant had been taking part in FP1 sessions at multiple Grands Prix late on in the season. The post-season test on Tuesday following the final race of 2022 in Abu Dhabi was an altogether different experience. His time on track in the FW44 served as a nice bow around a long season that ultimately finished up as a huge success.
“I just felt like there was a lot less pressure on the day. I could just get in the car and enjoy it, stretch my legs out, really get comfortable with it and really make strides in terms of progress and seeing what it can really do. Those things are super beneficial. We got through a lot and it was very positive. I was really happy with how I held up physically. I’ve been through the FP1s and I can feel my neck is reacting in a very positive way and getting much stronger.
“I've been with the team for over a year now. I've met everyone along the way and it didn't feel like I had to transition into the team if you know what I mean. I felt like I was just returning home, it just felt normal, it felt natural and it was just great to get back to work with them.”