With Lewis Hamilton announcing that he's moving to Ferrari in 2025, Formula 1's silly season has kicked into gear significantly earlier than usual.
One such driver that is being linked to the seven-time World Champion's seat is Alex Albon, removing some eyes from rookie team-mate Logan Sargeant.
Last season marked Sargeant's rookie campaign, and it wasn't a smooth sailing experience - several on-track errors resulted in his F1 career being thrown into doubt early doors.
He was consistently slower than Albon, who led the Grove-based team to seventh in the Constructors' Championship. Sargeant only made one Q3 appearance during his debut year, which came at the first Grand Prix in Las Vegas since 1982.
The American driver also only managed to score a single point, thanks to finishing 10th at the United States Grand Prix (following disqualifications for Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc). Compared to Albon's 27 points, it's easy to see why Sargeant came under fire.
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His seat was the last one to be confirmed for this year, with Williams Team Principal James Vowles having stressed throughout 2023 that Sargeant would have the full season to prove himself.
Ultimately, he did enough by the skin of his teeth to retain his drive and be offered an extension. Mercedes' reserve driver Mick Schumacher and Red Bull's backup driver Liam Lawson are just two of the names who were speculated to be in contention for the seat.
Following Williams' announcement that it was keeping its former academy driver for another term, it didn't take long for critics to stress that he required a significant improvement in 2024 to remain in F1 beyond the upcoming campaign.
Undoubtedly, Sargeant recognises that he can't make as many mistakes as he did last season, given the damage it will deal to his confidence, while also placing financial burden on the team.
Williams helping Sargeant 'move forward'
However, the former World Championship-winning squad is helping him make progress in the right direction.
“I think people think and expect less from an American driver," Sargeant told Autosport last month.
"But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, because as long as the people who matter sort of know what’s going on, and know what you’re capable of, that’s all that matters.
“So the external noise is just realistically completely irrelevant. You just do your job, you keep working hard, and you work with the people who can make a difference to your career, and you do your best for them.
“They also try to help you move forward as well. And that’s all you can really do. So as long as the people who need to know, know, then the rest is completely irrelevant,” reckoned Sargeant.
Given how close Sargeant came to being without a seat in 2024, it's easy for him to be viewed as the most at-risk driver on the grid ahead of 2025, especially as so many drivers are currently without a deal for next year.
One of those drivers is his teammate - Albon's performances over the last two seasons at Williams have led to him being touted with a switch to Mercedes or possibly even a return to Red Bull.
The driver market now sees Albon's name firmly in the thick of it, with critical eyes shifting away from Sargeant. Albon's rumoured move to a leading team could work in Sargeant's favour, as Williams hasn't replaced both drivers since the end of 2018.
After that year, Williams lost Lance Stroll to Racing Point – known now as Aston Martin – and dropped Sergey Sirotkin. George Russell and Robert Kubica were signed as their replacements.
Williams isn't known for changing their entire driver line-up, which could improve Sargeant's chances of being retained if Albon does depart for 2025.
Ultimately, the responsibility rests with Sargeant himself to impress his squad enough to warrant a new deal - but with so much focus now on his team-mate's future, perhaps Sargeant can excel while out of the spotlight.