Williams’ James Vowles explains decision to sideline Logan Sargeant for Alex Albon

A hard crash from Alex Albon near the end of FP1 at the Australian Grand Prix left Williams Team Principal faced with an “unacceptable” decision.

Sidelining one of his drivers in the race itself.

The damage to Albon’s FW46 — and the chassis itself — saw Albon turned to a spectator for the second practice session. Ultimately, the team determined that the chassis could not be repaired in time for qualifying, putting the team in a difficult spot. The reason? The team did not have a backup chassis available.

With one car available, and two drivers to choose from, Vowles made the difficult decision to sideline second-year driver Logan Sargeant, sliding Albon into that car for qualifying and the race itself.

“We are hugely disappointed that the damage sustained to the chassis has meant we need to withdraw it from the weekend. It’s unacceptable in modern day Formula 1 not to have a spare chassis, but it is a reflection of how behind we were in the winter period and an illustration of why we need to go through significant change in order to get ourselves in a better position for the future. As a result, we have had some very difficult decisions to make this afternoon,” said Vowles in a statement provided by the team.

“While Logan should not have to suffer from a mistake that he did not make, every race counts when the midfield is tighter than ever, so we have made the call based on our best potential to score points this weekend,” added Vowles. “This decision was not made lightly, and we cannot thank Logan enough for his graceful acceptance, demonstrating his dedication to the team; he is a true team player. This will prove a tough weekend for Williams, and this situation is not one that we will put ourselves in again.”

The team elaborated on the decision following the statement. In a video released by the team, Vowles addressed the damage to Albon’s FW46, the reason the team did not have a backup chassis this week, and the “difficult” decision to sideline Sargeant:

“The damage was extensive,” said Vowles. “The gearbox is split in two, the power unit has significant damage to it and the chassis was damaged beyond repair at the track on the front-right corner.

“The main thing for me is that Alex is okay after that incident. It was a huge accident, you will have seen on TV just the amount of debris spread across the track and always in those circumstances, the driver’s health comes first.”

Vowles then addressed the unfortunate situation that left Williams without a backup chassis this weekend. As Vowles outlined when the team unveiled the FW46 in New York City, developing the FW46 was an extensive process, and one that left the team behind the eight ball a bit.

“As a result of the work that took place across the winter, we stressed the organisation to the absolute limits,” relayed Vowles. “We pushed everything as far as it could do and what it meant as a result of that is off the back end of being very late on some of the production, the spare chassis [completion date] starts to move backwards.

“No team plans to come to an event without a spare chassis. In doing so you create risk. In the absolute best case, it’s uncomfortable. In the worst case, one of the cars is not racing and that’s the situation we face today.

“We have to ensure that we never, ever put ourselves in that situation again going forward in the future. We are here to go racing and to only have one car here on Saturday and Sunday simply isn’t what we’re built to do.”

With just one car available, Vowles was then forced to make the most difficult decision of all: Which driver would be their representative in the Australian Grand Prix.

Albon was the choice.

“I’ve made the decision for Logan not to be racing this weekend and for Alex to take the chassis and continue on behalf of Williams Racing on Saturday and Sunday. It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve made so far whilst here in this organisation,” said Vowles.

“The midfield is so incredibly tight that a point or two or more may make the difference at the end of the season between being 10th or being sixth. The spread of our cars at the moment is milliseconds, and as much as it pains me to see a driver that, through no fault of their own, won’t be racing on Sunday, I have to prioritise the team above all else,” added the Williams boss.

F1 Grand Prix of Australia - Practice

Vowles then addressed how Sargeant handled the decision.

“Logan has been tremendous. He’s here to support the team in this regard. He’s clearly very much hurting as a result of this decision, but equally strong in as much as he knows the team, above all else, is the priority,” added Vowles. “What I can say is this: the chassis, we’re back in the UK as quick as we can possibly make it and will be repaired such that we’re able to race again in Japan with two cars.”

For his part, Sargeant stated that while it was the hardest day of his career, he is here for whatever the team needs. ”This is the hardest moment I can remember in my career and it’s absolutely not easy. I am however completely here for the team and will continue to contribute in any way that I can this weekend to maximise what we can do,” said Sargeant.

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