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Logan Sargeant

How Sargeant can crack America - by an Indy 500 winner

Logan Sargeant is set to become the latest American Formula 1 driver with Williams - with one of his predecessors offering some advice to the latest rookie.

Logan Sargeant Abu Dhabi Test
To news overview © XPBimages

It has been nearly one generation since the United States of America last had a full-time Formula 1 driver: Scott Speed in the 2006 season.

Yes, Alexander Rossi did have a four race stint back in 2015, but this was in a dreadfully uncompetitive Manor car before he headed back home for IndyCar - and Indy 500 success - for '16.

Since then, there have been flirtations for the likes of Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta, but no driver has managed to secure a seat on the Grand Prix grid - even as F1 enjoys explosive growth in the States.

Until Logan Sargeant that is.

Williams have elected to promote the Floridian to a race seat alongside Alexander Albon in 2023, as Sargeant is set to follow the likes of Mario and Michael Andretti, Speed and Eddie Cheever in carrying the Stars and Stripes.

Another American former F1 driver is Danny Sullivan - who drove for Tyrrell (now Mercedes) in the 1983 season, claiming a best finish of fifth in Monaco.

Perhaps though, Sullivan is best known for his famous 'spin and win' in the 1985 Indianapolis 500 as the former New York City taxi driver spilt the milk at the Brickyard.

Ahead of Sargeant's first season in F1, RacingNews365.com caught up with Sullivan, who still regularly attends Grands Prix as an FIA race steward.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

What do Americans make of Sargeant?

"It is a positive as everybody in the community likes to be cheering for an American," Sullivan exclusively tells RacingNews365.com from his base on the East Coast.

"Logan seems to have the credentials and worked his way around Formula 2 and so on, and everybody is really excited.

"The only problem is that Williams has been on the back foot of late [in terms of performance], although with [owners] Dorilton Capital they've made some progress.

"They clearly have a good power unit and I am a big fan of [Alexander] Albon, so hopefully they can take a step forward, but I'm not naïve enough to think they're just going to jump to the front or the midfield, but it would be nice to see some progress where they're fighting for some points at least."

With Williams and Sargeant expected to be near the back of the pecking order, getting that breakthrough could prove a stumbling block for the 22-year-old.

While Sullivan concedes the prospect of Sargeant at the back is not appealing, he does believe the idea of an American in F1, is.

"I don't think it gets anybody excited compared to having someone at the front of the pack," he says.

"But everybody is still nationalistic and likes to have somebody from their home country [on the grid].

"Haas for example a couple of years ago were raising the enthusiasm when they looked a little stronger, but ultimately it's also about the driver that fans want to root for.

"And the thing that is hurting Logan is that he is not as well-known, like Colton [Herta].

"I'm not saying he is better [than Sargeant], but he's just had more of a presence and a name in America having raced and won in IndyCar.

"Logan's got a chance to get the public [attention] over here, but if they are not getting the results, a lot of it will be down to a PR, marketing and social media campaign.

"They'll have to help him build his own brand - and for Williams - in the US market."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

How Sargeant can buck the F1 trend

F1 is attempting to muscle into an already saturated US sports market, with established series such as NASCAR, IndyCar, the NFL, NBA, MLB and the NHL, with drivers/athletes/figures in those series such as Dale Earnhardt Jr, Tom Brady and LeBron James all household names.

Furthermore, as F1 is in town for a weekend and then off to another country, it can be tricky to establish a media presence, whereas those in the major sports series are seen in magazines, on TV and radio all year round.

As he alluded to above, Sullivan feels that Sargeant - and indeed the other 19 F1 drivers - need to drill into this untapped mine.

"The one thing they need a lot more of is a PR, media presence push for drivers in America," he says.

"Formula 1 drivers don't ever have to do anything [in America] because they get so much publicity in Europe, where the majority of the people, teams and personnel are based - and they haven't had to do anything because they get all the publicity, but don't in a lot of places around the world.

"Somebody will put them in Hello magazine [in Europe], but you don't get that in America, so you don't see them as much, they're non-recognisable, whereas in other sports, they are not that way, so to get the popularity of drivers through the field, you need the bigger media presence.

How to beat Andretti

Sullivan's single-season in Grand Prix racing ended at the close of 1983 as a sponsor decided to leave Ken Tyrrell's squad, but a PR move meant he was more popular than Mario Andretti upon his return to IndyCar.

"When I was in Formula 1, Benetton hired me because they didn't see their name in the paper, they saw mine and Tyrrell's name in the paper.

"They hired a PR firm for me, and I got so much exposure in the United States racing in F1 that when I came back to do IndyCar, I kept the firm on because I had more impressions than Mario Andretti in IndyCar.

"And back then, there was virtually no media exposure..."

To have more impressions than the head of America's First Family of Motorsport is some serious going from Sullivan and his team, but it is a handy guide to the latest export from America in Sargeant - 40 years after the Kentucky-native's sole F1 campaign.

While Sargeant will no doubt get the publicity in places such as New York in the east or Los Angeles in the west, it is the bit in the middle his PR team and Williams must mine to promote their driver.

F1 has craved the American market for so long, and now it finally has a full-time American driver, it is ever so important to make the public know.

After all, this is a country of some 330 million people - or 660 million eyeballs.

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