With hundreds of drivers competing in feeder series all over the world, your chances of getting to Formula 1 are slim. If you manage to join the academy of a Formula 1 team though, they increase tenfold. That is, if you perform. In this series we take a look at how the members of F1 academies have performed in 2021. Today: the Williams Driver Academy.
By Tyler Foster
Roy Nissany (Formula 2)
Israeli driver Roy Nissany has been the official test driver for the Williams F1 team since 2020. He started off 2021 competing in the F3 Asian Championship, where he finished fifth behind fellow F2 drivers Guanyu Zhou and Jehan Deruvala. He then moved teams within Formula 2 for the third time in three years. Having previously raced for Trident in 2020, where he scored just five points and finished 19th in the drivers’ standings, he signed for DAMS for the 2021 F2 season after driving for them in the post-season test at Bahrain.
In 2021 he had only three points finishes, with two of them at Monaco, including a third-place finish in the first sprint race. As a result, he scored 16 points and finished 16th in the drivers’ standings. While this was a slight improvement from 2020, he struggled in comparison to teammate Marcus Armstrong, who scored 43 points and managed a race win. Alongside his ventures in F2, Nissany also was with the Williams F1 team on the first day of pre-season testing. During the season, he took part in three FP1 sessions in Spain, France and Austria.
The 27-year-old has taken part in the post-season Formula 2 test at Yas Marina, driving once again for DAMS alongside Ayumu Iwasa and will continue with the team into 2022. This may be his final season in the series as this will be his fourth. An announcement to resign him as Williams test driver for 2022 would most likely come in the new year, if at all.
Jack Aitken (FIA F2/GT)
The British-Korean driver joined the Williams Driver Academy in 2020 after he was released by Renault in 2019. He was made Williams reserve driver and made his Formula One debut racing for Williams at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix after George Russell took the seat of Lewis Hamilton who had contracted COVID.
For the 2021 season, Aitken partially competed in F2 after leaving Campos Racing the previous year. When Matteo Nannini left HWA Racelab after the first round, Aitken took his place for the next three rounds however failed to score any points. During 2021, he also shifted his focus to sports car racing and joined the GT World Challenge Europe competing for Emil Frey Racing. However, after a couple of decent results at Misano, he suffered a heavy accident at Spa-Francorchamps. What resulted was a broken collarbone, a fractured vertebra and a very small lung contusion. He did not return until the first week of December when he took part in an IndyCar test for Ed Carpenter Racing. Lastly, in the final weekend of the Formula One season at Abu Dhabi, Aitken replaced George Russell in FP1.
Aitken’s future looks brighter now than this time last year. The 26-year-old seems to be the most realistic candidate to take a trip Stateside and race the road and street courses next season for Ed Carpenter Racing. While he was only fourth quickest in the test behind Nyck De Vries, Callum Ilott and Stoffel Vandoorne, both De Vries and Vandoorne are busy racing for Mercedes in Formula E next year, while Ilott has already secured an IndyCar seat for 2022. Aitken’s role with Williams is currently unclear for 2022.
Logan Sargeant (FIA F3/ELMS/FIA F2)
After the nail-biting end to the 2020 Formula 3 season for the American driver, where he lost out on the title by four points to teammate Oscar Piastri, Sargeant wasn’t able to make the jump up to Formula 2 due to a lack of finances. Therefore, he had to remain in Formula 3 and moved away from Prema to the smaller Charouz Racing team. He managed two early fourth-placed finishes before taking three podiums in three consecutive rounds at the Hungaroring, Spa and Zandvoort. His season highlight came in the first sprint race at the final round in Sochi where he achieved victory, Charouz’s first ever in Formula 3. Sargeant concluded his second F3 campaign with 102 points, finishing seventh in the championship. While less points than the year before, managing such a strong season with a smaller team such as Charouz was arguably a bigger achievement.
The American also ran in two rounds of the European Le Mans Series this year. He was part of the team that took pole position at the 4 hours of the Red Bull Ring on his debut in sports cars and finished fourth. Following the end of the F3 season, at the US GP, Sargeant was announced as the latest recruit of the Williams Driver Academy. Finally, Sargeant replaced Jake Hughes at HWA Racelab for the penultimate round of the Formula 2 season in Jeddah. He made his debut at this level and competed well compared to his teammate and managed 14th place in the feature race.
Prior to the final round of the Formula 1 season, Williams announced that 20-year-old Sargeant would take part in the post-season F1 test. This will be his first chance to drive in F1 machinery. For 2022, the American driver deservedly graduates from F3 and will take part in his first full-time Formula 2 season with Carlin.
Jamie Chadwick (W Series/Extreme E)
The British driver has been a development driver for Williams and a member of its Driver Academy since 2019. With the 2020 W Series cancelled due to the pandemic, Chadwick had to look elsewhere to scratch her racing itch. She joined Prema for the 2020 Formula Regional European Championship. However, her season was underwhelming and she only managed ninth in the standings with a singular podium coming in the first race.
In 2021 she continued her role with Williams as development driver. She managed to defend her W Series title from 2019 after an impressive battle with Alice Powell that went down to the final race in which Chadwick got pole and won. Lastly, Chadwick has also competed in the inaugural Extreme E Championship for Veloce Racing. Along Stéphane Sarrazin she managed second place in the second round at the Ocean X-Prix in Senegal. She had to withdraw from rounds three and four due to clashes with the W Series but is due to take part in the final round (18th – 19th December), the Jurassic X-Prix in the UK.
Chadwick also had a World Endurance Championship test alongside Alice Powell in Bahrain. Other than that, not much is known about Chadwick’s options for the future. She has said herself that over the course of the year she’s had conversations with numerous teams to secure a drive in another competitive junior series. This could possibly be Formula 3 and she may even feature before then in a winter series. She will remain in her role at Williams.
Header photo credit: Williams