Williams Team Principal James Vowles says rookie driver Logan Sargeant is at the team "on merit", rather than by dint of his commercial appeal.
Before being bought out by Dorilton Capital in 2020, Williams had endured a lean few years financially, and had resorted to hiring a succession of drivers who brought significant funding to the team, such as Nicholas Latifi, Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin.
With American interest in F1 having increased hugely in recent years, and the sport set to have three races in the United States from 2023 onwards, Williams' signing of Sargeant – F1's first American race driver since Alexander Rossi in 2015 – was seen by some as having been driven primarily by commercial considerations.
However, Vowles dismissed that notion, saying that Sargeant was "deserving" of his place on the F1 grid.
"I now have the ability to look at his data, and he is here on merit," Vowles was quoted as saying by Motorsport.com.
"As a result of Williams investing correctly in him, he's now a professional, deserving driver on the grid."
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Vowles "was wrong" to reject Sargeant previously
In a previous role as Mercedes' head of motorsport strategy, Vowles opted to pass on Sargeant when evaluating him for the Silver Arrows' junior driver suite.
Williams instead stepped in to part-fund Sargeant's junior career, and Vowles conceded that he had been wrong not to tie the American to the Silver Arrows.
"He came to Mercedes as a sim evaluation [driver] and I was interested in looking at him because he had performance, especially when you go back to his Formula 3 performance in an average team," said Vowles.
"At the time in Mercedes, we had a good suite of drivers, so that was where my relationship with him ended.
"Williams funded him because they had deep belief that he was the real deal, so it just shows you that in my previous life I was wrong and Williams were right."
Balve Bains is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to dissect the key talking points from the last week in F1.