News of a Formula 2 graduation followed Felipe Drugovich’s odd title win in Monza, but not for the champion. Drugovich’s title rival Theo Pourchaire couldn’t take enough points to extend the championship fight, yet he looks set for a P2 finish.
But it is not Drugovich or Pourchaire who will take to F1 in 2023 despite making this F2 season a two-horse race. Instead, that privilege goes to Carlin’s Logan Sargeant, who will race for Williams next year.
In the wake of Sargeant’s FP1 debut at the US Grand Prix, Williams took advantage of the home support to announce their American Driver Academy star will become an F1 driver should he attain the necessary super-licence points. However, that caveat seems to be a formality. Logan sits P3 in the Formula 2 standings and likely only needs a P7 finish in the championship to legally race in F1, seeing as Williams will put him in the FW44 in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi.
You may question whether a driver who isn’t the F2 champion deserves to make it to F1 when the driver to take the crown only gets a development role. Yes, it merits closer investigation from an outsider’s perspective, but in the opinion of someone who has closely followed the feeder series for years, the promotion is no surprise.
Let’s rewind the clock and head back to the Covid-ridden 2020. The odd F1 season, with Austria, Silverstone, and Bahrain all hosting two races apiece and 17 rounds crammed into six months, also affected F3. The junior championship began on July 4th, and Oscar Piastri had wrapped up his title by September 13th – just 71 days later.
Piastri headed into the final race level on points with another young charger named Logan Sargeant. But, unfortunately, the championship showdown ended at the second corner after another racer hit Sargeant, meaning Piastri essentially had to finish the race in the top 10 to take the crown.
The hype around Piastri is understandable, given his run of three successive championships. However, crashes and collisions are a part of racing, and sporting history is littered with ifs, buts and maybes. Had Sargeant avoided that Lap 1 collision, he could’ve taken that F3 title and reduced the furore surrounding Piastri’s move to McLaren next year.
I’m not suggesting Piastri possesses less talent than the media leads us to believe – he is undeniably one of F1’s brightest prospects – but if Sargeant matched his points tally for 17 of 18 rounds in equal machinery, the American can’t be too far behind. Of course, there are arguments on both sides, with Piastri’s 2020 season being his first in F3 while it was Sargeant’s second. But, in short, if you’re excited to see Piastri in F1, you should also be excited to see Sargeant.
At the time of writing, the Formula 2 season has one more round left to decide the final championship standings. Sargeant currently sits P3 with 135 points and is the top rookie, but he has a gaggle of rivals sitting with 126 points behind him. No one can replace Drugovich at the top, and Sargeant only has a slim chance of surpassing Pourchaire for P2 with a 29-point gap and 39 points remaining.
Next year, the two young men ahead of Sargeant, Drugovich and Pourchaire, will settle for development and reserve driver roles, respectively. These aren’t the dreams of any young racer. Again, from the outside looking in, it’s fair to question why it’s Sargeant getting the nod, not those ahead of him. Several factors are at play, and again, it’s no surprise.
Drugovich, as talented as he is, is in his third season in F2, and he failed to win a single race in 2021 in the same team as Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou. Fighting for the title is an expectation when you have a couple of years in F2 under your belt, so in one sense, Drugovich’s championship simply fulfills the minimum requirements. He still had to drive to win it, but he is three years older and 48 F2 races wiser than some of his competitors.
Pourchaire is a demonstration that results have to come alongside a high reputation. The young Frenchman was long-hailed as the most promising young driver in F1, with F4 titles and taking P2 in F3. This second season in F2 was meant to be a runaway success story so Alfa Romeo, his long-time backers, could promote him to F1. However, Drugovich besting him in an F2 team most view as a lesser outfit than Pourchaire’s has dented the golden boy’s prestige, and he’ll now have to wait at least one more year for his F1 chance.
On the other hand, Sargeant has shown consistency with his many points finishes in his first F2 season and could be P2 in the standings if not for some mechanical failures blighting the second half of his year. He has made mistakes, as every first-year driver does, most egregiously in Zandvoort, but regardless, he remains Formula 2’s best 2022 rookie.
The stars have aligned for Sargeant, with Williams finally waving goodbye to Nicholas Latifi and America’s boom in F1 interest coming when he has shone in F2. Yet luck and timing are often as vital as skill in making it to Formula One, and it seems Logan has all three. So is he the best junior driver around to take the step up to the pinnacle of motorsport? Maybe, or maybe not. But he’s as deserving as any other feeder series driver in the conversation.