Logan Sargeant is having a tough rookie F1 campaign and is the only driver yet to register a point on the board out of those who have completed every round so far this year.
A further headache for the 22-year-old American is coming in the shape of his teammate, Alex Albon, who has produced several stunning performances for Williams.
Albon has scored points in four of the last seven races, all of which were top-eight finishes. In contrast, Sargeant has placed no higher than 11th, a position he has achieved only once.
While Albon has capitalised on almost every opportunity to come his way, Sargeant has let several slip through his fingers. His latest ‘what if’ moment came at the Italian Grand Prix, with an unseen collision with Valtteri Bottas potentially costing him a maiden points finish.
Williams team principal James Vowles has repeatedly backed Sargeant amid his various trials and tribulations, but admitted at Monza that the rookie will have to “earn” his seat for 2024 on merit.
“Alex is here for the long term, I can tell you that already,” Vowles told Sky F1.
“In terms of where Logan is, he’s on the right path to developing, he has to just keep stepping it up race on race.
“But it’s more about working with him, as we did with George [Russell] back then, less so about contracts in those circumstances.
“The comment I’ve given him is this: It’s a meritocracy. You’re not here just because we want you to be here. You have to earn your place.
“This is the pinnacle of motorsport, and what I’m asking for you is follow this general guidance, follow this development path, keep moving forward relative to Alex and there’s a place for you here with your name on it.
“Before then, there’s points with your name on it. Some were available at Zandvoort if everything went perfectly, there are this weekend as well.
“Earn those, and it’s how you earn, basically, your pathway into Formula 1.”
After Sunday’s race, Vowles gave Sargeant a vote of confidence, telling him over team radio: “Well done Logan tough fight there today you held your own for a long long period of time. That point with your name is still out there.”
But with a run of unfamiliar F1 circuits to come, Sargeant may have already missed his best chance to prove to Williams that he deserves to stay for a second season.
The sharks will no doubt be circling, with the likes of Nyck de Vries (who Williams were interested in before he signed for AlphaTauri) and Mick Schumacher desperate to muscle their way back onto the F1 grid.
What about Zhou Guanyu?
Zhou Guanyu is fighting to retain his Alfa Romeo Sauber seat alongside Valtteri Bottas for 2024.
There is very little separating the pair in 2023 (just two points in fact) and Zhou has shown he has made clear progress with a more consistent sophomore campaign.
Alfa Romeo’s lack of competitiveness has prevented the Chinese racer from being able to shine, but he has generally held his own against de-facto team leader Bottas.
The returning Chinese Grand Prix (and with it China’s lucrative market) may boost Zhou’s chances of staying at Alfa Romeo for at least one more year, although it remains to be seen how much of an influence Audi will have on the Hinwil outfit’s driver line-up ahead of their entry in 2026.
There is also the factor of Formula 2 championship favourite Theo Pourchaire (a Sauber Academy driver) to take into consideration.
Pourchaire is on course to wrap up the F2 championship title – barring a final round disaster – an achievement which would only strengthen his case for a 2024 F1 seat. The 20-year-old is highly-rated and would not be able to return to F2 next season should he be crowned in Abu Dhabi.
Zhou may also face competition from current Aston Martin reserve Felipe Drugovich. The Brazilian, also an F2 champion who can bring financial backing, is reportedly another candidate being considered by Alfa Romeo.
“Is Zhou going to hold onto his drive next year? I don’t know,” Sky F1’s pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz commented in his post-Italian Grand Prix notebook.
“Theo Pourchaire is being highly rated, if he wins or finishes high up in the F2 championship, to take the second drive given that he is an Alfa Romeo Sauber junior.
“So it’s Zhou vs Pourchaire for this team in 2024. That’s what’s going on in the driver market at Alfa Romeo-Sauber.”
The only other yet-to-be-filled seats for 2024 can be found at AlphaTauri, where three drivers; Yuki Tsunoda, Daniel Ricciardo and Liam Lawson are vying over two spots at Red Bull’s sister team.