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OPINION: James Vowles made a mistake by giving Sargeant’s car to Albon

Written by Gabriel Tsui, Edited by Meghana Sree

Credits: Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images

Before we start, I would like to state that this is in no way an attack on either James Vowles or Alex Albon. They are both incredible human beings who made the best of an unfortunate decision, and I have no ill will towards either person. 

During the first practice of the Australian Grand Prix weekend, Alex Albon lost control of the car and went straight into the wall, bringing out the red flag. More importantly, the crash caused what was described as “irreparable damage” to the chassis of Albon’s car.

With no extra chassis, Williams were down to a single car for the weekend. At the end of the day, James Vowles, the Team Principal of Williams, announced that they will be putting Albon into Logan Sargeant’s car, with Sargeant demoted to the sidelines for the rest of the weekend. 

Vowels explained the controversial decision in an interview with F1, stating: “It is the hardest decision I’ve had to make.'' Looking back at the performances so far into the season, the team believed Albon had the best chance of scoring points for the weekend.

It is true and understandable that not having a spare chassis is an unfortunate reality for Williams, a small team with limited budget, unlike top teams such as Ferrari, Red Bull, and Mercedes. However, as for the decision to give Sargeant’s car to Albon, I believe that Vowles made a grave mistake.

This polarising decision may have inflicted some problems that could hinder both the performance and the morale of Sargeant, while missing out on a huge chance for Sargeant to prove himself.

This decision is a big hit on Sargeant’s confidence. As a high performance athlete, who works hard for what he does, being put on the sidelines because of a teammate’s mistake and not having the chance to prove one’s own potential is absolutely gutting. 

Some may argue the fact that Albon has had better performances, and most would agree. However, one can also argue that Sargeant was forced to give up his chance to compete at no fault of his own.

Even though Albon, on paper, definitely would produce better results, he lost his chance to compete when he wrecked his car. Vowles, who essentially gifted a “second chance” to Albon at the expense of Sargeant, put out a vote of no confidence upon Sargeant.

It is now clear as day that the team did not have confidence in him to go and score some points. When Vowles made that decision, he did so with the Constructors’ Championship in mind, but that decision did not pay off, as Albon was held to 11th place in the race, behind Kevin Magnussen in the Haas. 

However, whether Albon scored points or not is irrelevant to the discussion. The important thing to understand about the entire situation is that the top brass within Williams clearly felt that Sargeant did not have the ability to compete with other cars such as Haas and Racing Bulls in the midfield. This shows the amount of faith, or lack thereof, Williams has for Sargeant and his future within the team.

Credits: Paul Crock, AFP

Ignore the fact that Albon didn’t score any points. Ignore what has happened, and let’s consider this:

Instead of switching cars, Vowles could have gone in a completely different direction. He could’ve taken the opportunity and given Sargeant a chance to prove himself and show that he has the ability to go and “clutch up” even when the number one driver is out.

A chance for the young driver to show that he can carry the team on his back under difficult circumstances. A decision that could instil belief and confidence into a young driver. 

Vowles said in an interview with F1: “In the case of Logan, I haven’t changed my mind. I’ve signed him and I’ve put my full weight behind him because I believe in him.” This statement is now contrary to his actions and does not reflect the ultimate decision that was taken.

If there was any belief in Sargeant’s performance, he would have been trusted to go and score points for the team, regardless of the situation. 

A point made by Jolyon Palmer in an opinion article on Formula One’s website resonated with my thoughts a lot.

He wrote: “ might have been better to keep Logan in his own car, hope to gain a point anyway with a driver that you’ve been publicly backing and not create all of these question marks and damage the morale of their second driver.” Vowles publicly speaks about supporting and trusting the American, yet his decisions and actions contradict his words. 

Credits: Williams

Vowles has said on multiple occasions that he makes decisions based on data and statistics, which isn’t problematic.

The problem is that Vowles failed to account for the human factor of the decision. He failed to account for what this decision led to — a number one driver that was under enormous pressure to perform and a number two driver whose confidence is now at rock bottom, despite what the press releases state.

As we head into the Japanese Grand Prix, we will see how Sargeant and the entire team responds to this situation. Maybe all of this concern is just speculation and Sargeant will come back with a “to all the non-believers” mentality, to perform better than ever before. Or maybe Sargeant becomes a shell of his former self. Only time will tell what is going to happen next. 

But at the moment, I believe that James Vowles made an insurmountable mistake. When he made this decision, he failed to account for the magnitude of its repercussions for the team morale.

In hindsight, he made a decision that ended up not paying off, which could also lead to even more unforeseen negative effects further down the road, that might prove disastrous for Williams’ fight in the Championship.  

1 comment

1 comentário

01 de mai.

While James Vowles' decision to give Sargeant's car to Albon is indeed debatable, let's not forget the importance of making informed choices, just like when selecting a salvage car from a reputable source. Speaking of which, if you're considering getting a Hyundai Sonata or any other salvage vehicle, offers a wide selection to choose from. Remember, research and diligence are key when making decisions, whether on the race track or when buying a salvage car

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