When Logan Sargeant clambered out of his Charouz after Race 1 in Sochi, he was both relieved and delighted. “Finally, I’ve gotten a win,” elated the American. It had been 390 days since his last victory, but for Charouz Racing System, it had been even longer, and arguably, it meant even more.
Their last victory on the Road to F1 came more than three years ago in the 2018 Formula 2 season, although the Czech team had never actually won in Formula 3.
Team Principal Bob Vavrik said that they “wanted to show to the outside world that the team was good enough to get results.” Taking a first win in the finale and scoring 107 more points than in the 2019 and 2020 campaigns combined, Charouz certainly achieved that.
All four of the team’s F3 podiums to date also came during the 2021 campaign. After two seasons of finishing in eighth and 10th, Charouz were fifth in the Teams’ standings, above 2019 vice-champions Hitech Grand Prix.
So how did they transform their fortunes so drastically?
BOLSTERING THEIR TEAM
Signing 2020 title challenger Logan Sargeant was a massive coup, as was the capture of exciting 2020 rookie Enzo Fittipaldi. Between them, the duo brought both experience and speed.
Another huge part of the team’s success came from the capture of Chief Engineer Andrea Rocchetto – previously of Trident - whose arrival helped to convince Sargeant of the project.
Charouz were confident that results would follow. So too were Sargeant and Fittipaldi - the duo even made a bet with each other on who would score a podium first.
“We've never had a line-up as strong as we have this year,” said Vavrik. “If you enter a season with three rookies, then it is always difficult. This was the case in the past two seasons and in terms of the table we were nowhere. They weren’t bad drivers, that’s not what I am saying, but they were all rookies.
“Logan (Sargeant) was sceptical at the beginning. But to be honest, I think he thought that worst case scenario, he could come out and say that the team was bad. We were confident he wouldn’t have to (say that).
“Logan had knowledge from the previous season, which helps. I don't want to say significantly, but it helps. He is a driver who can give you good feedback and that was a big help for the team. We knew what way we needed to go with the car and what we needed to do.
We've never had a line-up as strong as we have this year
“Andrea (Rocchetto) came in and he had a good reputation. That was part of the package that we put together. He knows a lot about these cars, and he brought in new things to us.”
The team had never finished higher than eighth in F3, but Sargeant took fourth on his debut with them. Fittipaldi matched this result in Round 3, before they both scored podiums in the following round at Budapest. Sargeant narrowly beat Fittipaldi to the punch with P3 in Race 1, but Fittipaldi took second in the following race.
The Brazilian was promoted to their F2 team on the back of this result, but Sargeant remained and took three further podiums, including the Race 1 victory in Sochi.
“I think the season went as we expected,” said Vavrik. “We wanted to show to the outside world that this team was good enough to get results. If you have three seasons in a row finishing towards the bottom, then it doesn't bring you good drivers.
“Everyone is looking for the teams who can make the top five, the top three, and we want to be up there.
“In the last few rounds, you could see that potential and Logan made it work. Imagine if we had three drivers for the whole season who were all this strong. We would be fighting for the Championship. It is simple.”
Despite the departure of Fittipaldi, Charouz were able to overtake Hitech in the standings for fifth place, beating the British team by a point in the season finale. Sargeant finished the campaign on a run of 12 points finishes in a row, a remarkable turn of form from a team who had never previously taken more than two in succession in F3.
CONTINUING THEIR PROGRESS
Charouz knew that they’d put together a package capable of that type of form, they just needed a driver who was able to unlock it. In 2021, Sargeant was that driver, but with the American set to depart, the process to find another begins.
What exactly is Vavrik looking for?
“For me, you need one very fast, very experienced driver, who can always get the lap,” explained Vavrik. “Then two promising rookies in the other two cars. That is what we are looking for next season.
“With that, you can really create good results. And of course, we are looking for sponsors to help out the drivers. Charouz Racing doesn't do it for profit. Charouz do it because Antonin Charouz’s life is motorsport and cars. It’s his team, and he enjoys it. It was satisfying for him when Logan won.
“If we get the drivers that we are looking for, then it is possible to improve again. We want more podiums. We want to fight for Championships, and we want to reach the top 3. That is what Antonin wants, that is what we all want. It depends on the line-up that we end up with, but we’re working on that.”