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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Logan Sargeant is the only American driver in F1. His seat is in jeopardy as he heads into home race

    Williams driver Logan Sargeant of the U.S. arrives ahead of the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race at the Miami International Autodrome, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    Miami Gardens, Fla. — The only American driver in Formula One had a somewhat decent showing in the Saturday sprint race ahead of the Miami Grand Prix. Then Logan Sargeant totally tanked in qualifying at a time his seat with Williams seems in serious jeopardy.

    The sprint race was won by three-time reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen, who is undefeated on the Miami circuit since its 2022 debut. Sargeant was a distant 12th — two spots ahead of Williams teammate Alex Albon.

    Come qualifying for Sunday's race, though, Sargeant wound up a distant 17th in the 20-driver field.

    “Are we in? Please tell me we are in,” the Floridian radioed his Williams team inquiring to see if he'd advanced out of the first qualifying group. When told he had not, Sargeant replied, “that's a shame.”

    Williams team principal James Vowles has said that to keep his seat, Sargeant must elevate his performance to consistently match Albon. Vowles has always been open about the benchmarks set for the 23-year-old from Pompano Beach, but the latest pressure comes as speculation runs rampant that Sargeant could be replaced as soon as the May 19 race at Imola in Italy.

    The leading candidate to take Sargeant's seat is Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli. The 17-year-old Italian competes in F2 and does not yet have the Super License required to compete in an F1 race. Reports have indicated that the FIA has received a request to grant Antonelli a Super License ahead of his 18th birthday in August.

    "I’m sure there’s a desire, but I’ll give you my perspective on it: We have far bigger problems to solve than drivers at the moment," Vowles said. "Alex has done championship-level drives and at the moment he’s not scoring points and fundamentally we have it on us to improve our car going forward. That’s my primary concern more than anything else and what we do with drivers going into ’25, ’26.

    “In the sense of Kimi, you have to remember it’s just 20 months ago he was in a Formula 4 car," he added. "That’s a large, large step up into a Formula 1 car in such a short space of time.”

    Although Williams is one of Mercedes' customers, Vowles said he does not have enough data to rate Antonelli and said he wouldn't be in Sargeant's car at Imola.

    “I don’t have any direct communication with Mercedes on how he’s doing in the tests,” Vowles said. “But you can’t really compare in that situation. It’s older cars. I’m not sure if it’s a ’21 or a ’22 car. And there’s nothing really to reference it to.”

    Vowles also said his last conversation with Antonelli was at the 2023 season finale in Abu Dhabi. But he seemed adamant that Antonelli will not be replacing Sargeant anytime soon.

    “I’ve always said from the beginning, it’s a meritocracy. Logan has to earn his seat. And at the moment, he has some tough targets where he has to get much closer to Alex,” Vowles said. “But there is nothing on the radar at the moment for replacing him.”

    Sargeant has missed a race this season because Albon crashed in practice in Australia, Williams didn't have a backup car and so the team gave Sargeant's car to Albon for the race. At the next event in Japan, Sargeant received Albon's repaired car rather than his unscathed own Williams.

    Through four of the five races this season, Sargeant has been outqualified by Albon everytime and his best finish has been 14th. He's scored a single point — last year at Austin in his rookie season — through 26 races.

    Sargeant, who took a day earlier this week to go boating with family and friends, said he feels relaxed to be racing at home and not buckling to outside speculation.

    “Every race in Formula 1 has a lot of pressure behind it. If anything, it just feels like more relaxed weekend, you know, staying at home, being able to eat whatever I want when I’m at home, have my friends, have my parents,” he said. “It just feels a little bit different, different to normal, but in a good way.”

    Williams drivers Alexander Albon, left, of Thailand and Logan Sargeant of the U.S., speak during an interview ahead of the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race at the Miami International Autodrome, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Williams driver Logan Sargeant, of the United States, smiles during a press conference ahead of the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race, Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
    Williams driver Logan Sargeant of the US steers his car during qualifying at the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

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