On March 5th, 2023, Logan Sargeant will climb into his Williams’ car’s cockpit in Sakhir, Bahrain. Donning the number two on his back, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native will make history under the lights of the Bahrain International Circuit. For the first time in eight years, there will be an American driver on the Formula 1 grid.
The pieces certainly fell Sargeant’s way to fill in the hole left behind by Nicholas Latifi, who departed the team after he was informed that Williams would not be renegotiating a new contract once his three-year deal was up in 2022. The Colton Herta super license debacle and Williams’ reserve driver Nyck De Vries leaving to take Pierre Gasly’s place at AlphaTauri meant Sargeant, who is also a part of the Williams Driver Academy, was one of the best available options for the team.
The 21 year-old will be the first American to compete in Formula 1 since Alexander Rossi, who raced for the long-disbanded Manor Marussia F1 Team in five grand prixs in 2015, and is well-deserving of the seat. Starting his career in karting when he was eight, he made waves around the motorsport world in 2015 when he became the first American since Lake Speed in 1978 to win the Karting World Championship. From there on, he has climbed the Formula racing ladder, competing in the Lower Formula Series, Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3, and, most recently Formula 2, making history along the way. In the 2022 season, he became the first American driver ever to win an F2 Grand Prix at the British Grand Prix, and ended the season in 4th place. He also secured a second victory in the Austrian Grand Prix and picked up multiple podiums in his first season in Formula 2.
For a team looking to get back to its heights like they were decades ago, the pairing of Sargeant and Alex Albon should favor them well as a strong midfield presence next season if their car develops like they think it will. But Williams’ hire of Sergeant also comes at an unprecedented time for the sport. The United States’ interest in Formula 1 comes at the highest it’s ever been, and it’s mainly thanks to Netflix’s smash-hit docuseries “Drive To Survive.” Now four seasons in, “Drive To Survive” has provided a high-quality look behind the scenes of the teams, their drivers, and the drama that encapsulates a season in Formula 1.
According to Formula 1, Season four of “Drive To Survive” was the most-watched Netflix series in 33 countries, including the United States. The season four audience was also larger than seasons one through three combined.
ESPN, who carries Formula 1 races to TV viewers in the United States, has seen their viewership numbers double as well since the release of “Drive To Survive.” Races aren’t exactly at the most attractive time either – because most races occur in Europe, a majority of the start between the times of seven to nine a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Recently, ESPN agreed to a new TV deal that ranges between $75 and $90 million annually, a massive increase from the $5 million a year mark in its previous deal.
American fans aren’t just watching the races, they’re turning up in droves to the Grand Prix events in the United States, too. For the United States Grand Prix in Austin, T.X., it was announced that the event was the largest of any Grand Prix in the history of Formula 1, as 400,000 fans poured into the Circuit of the Americas motor facility that weekend, and 140,000 were on-site for the race Sunday afternoon. And in its inaugural race, the Miami Grand Prix hosted roughly 240,000 fans last season.
To keep up with the demand, Formula 1 will be adding a third race in the United States in the upcoming 2023 season. For the first time since 1982 and 1984, there will be three races in the United States, and Las Vegas will be returning to the F1 calendar. The track layout will have drivers flying down the Vegas strip in a spectacle that will be sure to attract millions of viewers in the United States and around the world.
The peak of American viewership and interest in the sport doesn’t appear to be being reached anytime soon. According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, “One third (35%) of those interested in Formula 1 and 16% of all U.S. adults would be more interested in Formula 1 if there were more American drivers.
Additionally, 31% of NASCAR fans would be more interested in Formula 1 if there were more American drivers.” Logan Sargeant is the catalyst that may drive those who were initially uninterested in the sport because there were no Americans tuning into Formula 1 events on race weekends. Formula 1 has been a Euro-dominated sport for decades now, but the times appear to be changing. There will certainly be many eyes glued upon Sargeant in his first year behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, and although it’s unsure how he will fare next season, Sargeant brings new fans, more attention to racing, and more money to the world’s most premier form of motorsport.