The next American on the F1 grid will be 21-year-old Logan Sargeant.
Michael Andretti was the last American to score points in Forumula 1, and that came in 1993.
Current IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi in 2015 is the most recent American to start on the F1 grid.
Formula 1 has headed into its offseason with the 2023 grid finally set in stone, and among the field of 20 will be American youngster Logan Sargeant.
Formula 1 and America have a convoluted history but the relationship has bloomed in recent years, with the U.S. Grand Prix at Austin, Texas growing from strength to strength, Miami joining, and Las Vegas now less than 12 months away. Since 2016, America has been represented on the team lineup by Haas.
On the driver front, however, it has been a lean period.
Michael Andretti was the last points scorer in 1993, Scott Speed spent one-and-a-half uninspiring years with Toro Rosso in 2006-07, while Alexander Rossi started five Grands Prix for the backmarker Manor Marussia team in 2015. The wild Santino Ferrucci tested for Haas—but was never a realistic candidate for a full-time ride—while Colton Herta had courtships with several teams across the last year or so but his ineligibility for a Super License blocked his potential path to AlphaTauri.
The honor of the next American on the F1 grid now falls to the 21-year-old Sargeant.
The Florida native was at a career crossroads pre-2021, but an impressive Formula 3 season with the sub-par Charouz squad brought him to Williams’ attention. Sargeant stepped up to Formula 2 for 2022 and emerged as a 2023 contender through a perfect set of circumstances.
Nicholas Latifi’s struggles in his third year meant Williams actively sought a replacement. They were turned down mid-season by Oscar Piastri, who instead joined McLaren, while advances to Nyck de Vries, who replaced the unfit Alexander Albon for Williams at Monza, were ultimately fruitless when AlphaTauri swooped.
That left Sargeant as the sole realistic contender; that may sound a discredit, but as the door was pushed open he showed flashes of speed to underline his credentials.
Sargeant claimed successive Formula 2 wins and pole positions across the summer, and while the end of the season was less eye-catching Sargeant did enough to secure fourth in the championship, as its top rookie. That earned Sargeant the required points for a Formula 1 Super License and Williams, having first outlined Sargeant as its 2023 race driver in Austin, was finally able to officially communicate the news on Nov. 21.
“I think I wanted to stay very realistic and grounded and know that I still have a job to do,” said a low-key Sargeant on the slightly unusual pre-announcement announcement. “So for sure, there was pressure on the (Abu Dhabi) weekend, and there was a bit of weight off my shoulders when we got the job done (in Formula 2).
"I think there was trying to find a balance between risk versus reward, really. And it was actually not as much pressure as I expected. Because going into the weekend, I had become quite understanding of what was at stake, and quite at peace with it. So I just took the pressure off. I knew if we executed the way we could and had the same pace that we've had all year that everything would be fine.”
Sargeant will be carrying the hopes of many American F1 fans, a fanbase without a racer waving the American flag since 2015, but he downplayed the pressure.
“I feel like at the end of the day I’ve put in as much hard work as anyone else to reach this point,” said Sargeant, who bases himself in London. “And I just have to look at it as prepare the best I possibly can to be the best driver I can possibly be next year. And hopefully I can represent well and make them proud. But I don't think it's any extra pressure to be honest. I feel like I have high expectations for myself as it is.”
Sargeant got down to business in his new role as a Formula 1 racer by testing Williams’ FW44 during post-season test on Tuesday, completing 82 laps at Yas Marina.
“I mean the most important goal was to get comfortable in the car and really push the limits,” said Sargeant, who participated in four practice sessions in the closing stages of 2022. “In the FP1s you don’t have much time, whereas (at the test) I could really find the limit, while also really learning how I can change the car balance to my style. It’s a work in progress, it will be for a while, but it was a good start of understanding what those tools do.”
Formula 1 preseason testing in 2023 will last only three days—and is split equally between drivers—meaning Tuesday was a useful head-start for Sargeant. Williams' Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson said Sargeant drove “exceptionally well” and that Williams “were able to do a lot more work with him than is possible during an FP1 session and everything he did will set him up nicely for the crucial preseason testing that we will do next February.”
Preseason testing remains three months away, but Sargeant will have a busy schedule in order to get up to speed. Sargeant will be a regular visitor to Williams’ factory at Grove for simulator sessions and will integrate further with the team, an element which has been aided by his 2022 role.
“This time last year I was still in a bit of a shell, I didn’t really know everyone in the team, whereas now I feel part of the family,” he said. “It’s super easy to speak with everyone and work with them to get the best out of me and the car.”
Training will also need to be adapted as “in the F2 car a lot of it is to do with upper body strength, not having the power steering, whereas (F1) is very much neck and cardio-based.” And, despite a lack of official on-track running, Sargeant is set for a private test program in a 2021-spec F1 car, while he intends to “jump in a KZ kart to keep my brain active—I feel like any sort of driving is a positive and I feel like there’s plenty to be gained by getting in anything.”
Expectations will need to be tempered. Sargeant has been thrust into Formula 1 after a single Formula 2 season, and will do so with a Williams team that finished last in 2022. Sargeant, though, is wary of the situation.
“If I prep the best I can and drive to the best of my ability that’s really all that’s in my control,” he said. “That’s the best I can do.”