Sargeant and Williams reserve driver Nyck de Vries are the two main names that have been connected with the seat currently occupied by Nicholas Latifi, even before the Dutchman strengthened his claim with his superb drive to ninth on his debut at Monza.
However, De Vries has also put himself in the frame elsewhere. He has been offered a test in the 2021 Alpine, and on Friday he met with Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in Graz with a view to driving for AlphaTauri next season, now that it’s clear that Colton Herta won’t be able to get a superlicence.
De Vries is a logical candidate as the intention is for the seat to go to someone who could one day move to Red Bull Racing as partner to Max Verstappen.
It’s understood that a De Vries/Red Bull deal is not yet done. However, if it is eventually confirmed then Pierre Gasly will be free to move to Alpine, as was the plan when Herta was under consideration by Red Bull.
If De Vries does join the Red Bull camp then the full focus of Williams will be on Sargeant, who has enjoyed a strong rookie year in the F2 championship, and is scheduled to drive the FW44 in FP1 at his home race in Austin.
However, the American has to emerge from the final event in Abu Dhabi in November placed fifth or higher in the championship order to guarantee that he will get an FIA superlicence that will allow him to race next year.
He currently lies third on 135 points, but he is far from safe, and can tumble down the order if he suffers misfortune in Abu Dhabi. Jack Doohan, Jehan Daruvala and Enzo Fittipaldi all have 126 points, while Liam Lawson is on 117, Frederik Vesti 114, and Juri Vips 110.
If Sargeant doesn’t get the required licence points then Williams will have to look elsewhere.
Antonio Giovinazzi, who like De Vries is due to test the 2021 Alpine and is also connected to Mick Schumacher's Haas seat, is believed to be high on the list, while Schumacher himself cannot be ruled out. Jack Aitken, who subbed for George Russell at the 2020 Sakhir GP, is also available.
Another option is that Williams and Alpine could revive the loan deal that was planned for Oscar Piastri, but with Enstone protege Doohan making the sideways move.
Speaking at Monza last weekend team principal Jost Capito made it clear that Williams is open to taking on a rookie.
"There's a good choice of drivers,” he told Motorsport.com. “It's a good choice of young drivers, there's still some experienced drivers there as well. And so I think it's quite different philosophies, different strategies.
“And in the situation of the team we can work on different strategies. We are not so much in the front that we need two very experienced drivers, so we can experiment a bit, and get young drivers in. So we'll see what turns out to be best.”
Asked if he thought Sargeant was ready to make the step to F1, he said: "I think he's ready. Yeah, he needs some points. Of course, if he doesn't get the points, nothing helps. But yeah, I'm confident that he's ready, if it gets the points or not.”
Bringing an American to the F1 grid would be a huge PR boost for Williams, especially in the wake of the Herta saga. However, Capito denied that was a big motivation for the team.
"We wouldn't take him because of that. Either we think he's ready and he's capable, or not. He could do another year F2, or whatever."