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James Vowles

Vowles: F1 rookies in 'different world'

Williams Team Principal James Vowles has discussed the difficulties facing rookies in F1 after deciding to keep hold of Logan Sargeant for a second season in the sport.

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Williams Team Principal James Vowles has insisted Logan Sargeant is fully deserving of a second season in F1 after overcoming a difficult rookie season.

The American driver was not announced as Alex Albon's teammate for a second consecutive campaign until after the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following an up-and-down season.

Rookies entering F1 are limited to the running they can complete before making their bows, unlike in years gone by before in-season testing was banned and Vowles believes this has made entering the sport more difficult.

“In the old days – I don’t know how to describe old days, five years ago, six years ago – what we used to do is do about 30,000 kilometres of testing with a driver before you’d even consider putting them in the race car,” Vowles told the Speedcafe KTM Summer Grill.

“They need enough [time and experience] that they can explore the boundaries and limits of it because the step from any other motorsport series into this one is enormous.

“To put numbers on it, F2 and even IndyCar for that matter, would be about 14 seconds behind on a lap time, so you’re in a different ballpark to what you’re experiencing here.

“And it takes the drivers time to extract everything out of the tyres.

“Just focusing on the tyres for a second because that is the predominant item, you’re trying to get all four tyres within a few degrees of their optimum temperature – the window is only about four or five degrees.

“You’re trying to focus on that whilst trying to manhandle a car at 300 kilometres an hour on a circuit. It’s just a different world and it takes quite a while.”

Destabalised

Sargeant's inaugural year in F1 showed glimpses of the strong pace that earned him the requisite finish in F2 the season before to grant him his space on the grid, though frequent errors threatened to derail any progress being made.

“He started the year actually really strong,” explained Vowles, who joined the team in February having left his role as Mercedes Strategy Director.

“I think, and I said the same to him, might have been his undoing a little bit as well. He became perhaps overconfident that 'this is going to be okay'.

“In Bahrain, he was qualifying with Lando [Norris], within the same millisecond, in Saudi he put in a lap time that was faster than Alex, but deleted for track limits.

“Then you saw some other aspects of being a rookie. As soon as you take something [that] can destabilise your foundations, you question everything, which is what happened in Saudi – lap deleted, which shouldn’t be a problem, we had plenty more laps to be able to get in, but that destabilised him.

“Then what you saw is, to get the same lap time out of the car, he was having to really overdrive the car quite a bit.

“By the way, that’s a very normal thing for a rookie to do, that’s not an insult, it’s just when you aren’t sure where the limit is, it’s easier to go slightly over it, and then you get really punished for it.

“That happened all the way up through the season until we started to get towards the end.

“Then, around Suzuka time, you would have seen a different Logan.”

Sargeant 'building into it'

The frequent incidents for Sargeant left him with an underdeveloped car compared to teammate Albon by the time they reached the final throes of the campaign.

But in Japan, despite another crash in qualifying, the pace demonstrated proved he was beginning to get to grips with the Williams.

“But his performance there was back on par with Alex for the car spec he had," added Vowles.

“And I’d say from there onwards, at the end of the season, you’ll see a driver that’s now building into it, not overdriving the vehicle, in control of what he’s doing.

“The point in Austin was because he didn’t throw things away just trying to do a Hail Mary to go one position up, he just kept it together on track, didn’t get track limits, did a solid job.

“Vegas qualifying, within the same tenth – in fact, from that point onwards, you’ll see his pace is there, but our car performance dropped off so significantly now that points just simply weren’t available to us.

“That’s my summary of Logan, but it also helps to understand why he’s absolutely deserving of a chance again,” he added.

“There’ll be a bit of a reset over the winter, there always is, but he’s matured significantly through the season.”

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