AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An American driver is closing in on Formula One.
Williams reserve driver Logan Sargeant will get a seat for the 2023 season if he earns enough Super License points to qualify, team boss Jost Capito said Saturday ahead of the United States Grand Prix.
That would make him the first American driver on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015. And he would join the series at a time when it is booming in the U.S. The announcement occurred on the same day ESPN and F1 announced a new three-year broadcast rights deal.
The promotion announcement surprised the paddock, but if the 21-year-old Sargeant suddenly felt the hopes of a nation on his slender shoulders, it was hard to tell.
“I feel like it's been a long road of dedication to this point. I still have to go out an earn it," Sargeant said. “I feel like I put enough pressure on myself. It's not exterior pressure.”
Sargeant can earn the points he needs by finishing fifth or higher in the Formula 2 feeder series. He currently stands third, but only nine points separate third from sixth in the standings with one race left in Abu Dhabi. And even if he finishes lower, there are other complicated calculations of points he can earn through practice sessions.
Capito said the team wouldn't have announced its plan if there were any doubts whether Sargeant could get there.
Sargeant drove the first practice on Friday and he'll get two more practice sessions in Mexico City next week and at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Both sessions could earn points toward his license to race F1.
“We feel he is ready to race,” Capito said.
He said Williams first considered Sargeant for 2023 as far back as the British Grand Prix in July but it was too soon to announce. He will get the seat currently held by Nicholas Latifi, who is not being retained.
Sargeant's move leapfrogs him over IndyCar driver and F1 hopeful Colton Herta, who many had targeted as the likely next American driver.
Red Bull considered giving the 22-year-old Herta a seat at AlphaTauri, its junior team. But Herta's chances have been scuttled by the European Super License points process and he hasn't been able to qualify. The system favors drivers who compete in FIA-sanctioned series.
“I just feel like I’ve been putting in all the hard work in Europe throughout my whole career," Sargeant said. “I made that commitment early this was the route I wanted to take.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner welcomed the news of an American driver in F1.
"The American public is really engaged in Formula One. We need an American driver. And not only a driver, but a successful one as well," Horner said.
Capito said Sargeant earned his promotion on skill, not his nationality. He has won two F2 races this season.
“It is good for Formula One to have an American driver,” Capito said. "We didn’t pick Logan in the academy because he is an American, we picked him because of his success and his past in racing. If we take kids into the academy, the objective is to get them in the Formula One car.”
Still, Capito acknowledged that Williams, one of the smallest teams in the series, could capitalize financially. The team announcement came during a U.S. race weekend expected to draw up to 400,000 fans.
“We're not stupid,” Capito said.
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