Compared to the volatility of the 2022 Formula 1 driver market, 2021 was quite tame in comparison.
The key players involved were George Russell of Williams and Valtteri Bottas – with the former keen to end the tenancy of a Mercedes cockpit the latter had enjoyed since 2017.
Speculation was rife throughout the summer that Russell to Mercedes was imminent, but at the Belgian Grand Prix, there was nothing new to communicate, although Russell did provide a nugget when he said things needed to be done “properly” in the pre-race press conference – alongside Bottas, of course.
Both already knew at this stage what was to happen, but the public announcements were kept on hold until all the pieces of the jigsaw were in place.
The first piece of this was Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement, and after allowing the veteran Finn a few days in the headlines, the press release detailing Bottas’ move to Alfa Romeo was sent.
The next domino to fall was Russell alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes – but this still left a vacant seat on the grid – one the newly installed Williams team boss needed to fill.
In Part two of our exclusive chat with this boss, Jost Capito reveals how he manages his drivers and why it is important to keep them in the loop.
Capito reveals Williams talks with Russell
In the end, it was Alex Albon who was given the nod at Williams after losing his race seat at Red Bull in 2020 to Sergio Perez.
He was installed alongside Nicholas Latifi – with Capito repeating the process of talking with his established driver about their new teammate.
“Last year, I also spoke with George,” Capito explains when he sits down with RacingNews365.com at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – where Logan Sargeant was formally confirmed as Albon’s partner for 2023.
“You need a proper team atmosphere and just don’t surprise a driver with his teammate.
“You have to trust your guys and if you don’t, then it is difficult if they are [not] involved in this process.
“I’m always very close with drivers and if you are, you can talk to them about everything – and they then feel confident as well.
“They know where they are, where they stand with the team and with me so it is much easier.
“You [also] need a certain consistency in your management style that people expect without [any surprises.]”
Okay for Sargeant to make mistakes
After three seasons with the team, Latifi’s tenure came to an end in Abu Dhabi – with F2 racer Sargeant set to become the first full-time American F1 driver since Scott Speed back in 2006.
There was some doubt about whether Sargeant would be able to take up his seat when RacingNews365.com sat down with Capito as the Floridian-native still needed requisite finishes in the F2 finale to secure his superlicence.
He comfortably did this at Yas Marina over the weekend, finishing fourth in the standings with a sixth and fifth across the two races.
And Capito is fine with Sargeant making mistakes and costing the team points in his rookie season.
“It is obvious that we will lose some points because a rookie has to learn – it is different from somebody who is experienced.
“But if you look at the long term, [Sargeant] is why we did the Academy.
“If we weren’t willing to [put him in], then we would be wasting our money with the Academy.
“I am a fan of bringing the young guy in as quick as possible, because if he got used to a new category in F2, if he is doing that learning process, he can continue to learn in F1 much quicker than if he did the same thing for year.
“The earlier is better for us because we know we will not be highly competitive next year – so now we have a chance to get the young driver in – and a top team can’t really afford that.”
Capito describes the signing of Sargeant as a “win-win” for both the team and F1 itself – as the long-held ambition of a full-timer from America is realised – just as the enigma that is the US market seems to have finally been cracked.
The German is also complimentary of the support Albon has shown throughout the recruitment process – believing the Thai driver has morphed into a different role.
“It is his character,” Capito explains of Albon’s status as team leader.
“He was very supportive in getting Logan in because he is really happy to help a young guy – I think he has seen it in himself in the past.
“His personality is like: ‘I want a strong teammate – if I can build him up it can be a long-term thing.’
Sargeant will be one of three rookies on the 2023 grid, alongside Oscar Piastri at McLaren and Nyck De Vries at AlphaTauri.
Part one of RacingNews365.com’s exclusive chat with Jost Capito can be found here as he explains the steps being taken to rebuild the team from its recent nadir.
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