Williams team boss James Vowles says the "milliseconds" battle in Formula 1’s midfield meant he had no choice but to hand over Logan Sargeant’s car to Alex Albon in Australia.

With Albon’s original car being damaged beyond repair following a crash in opening practice at Albert Park, and Williams having no spare chassis on hand, the team had to withdraw one of its entries.

But rather than it leaving Albon on the sidelines, it took the controversial choice to give him Sargeant’s car instead – forcing the American out for the remainder of the weekend.

While Vowles said that the call was one of the “hardest decisions” he has had to make at the team, he has explained that the move was justified because of the super tight battle in the lower half of the constructors’ championship.

With points likely to be hard for the bottom five teams to score this year, Vowles said that Williams could not afford to let its highest-scoring driver sit things out, especially at a track where the team thinks it has a good opportunity to show well.

Speaking in a video posted on social media, Vowles said: “The midfield is so incredibly tight that a point or two or more may make the difference at the end of the season between being 10th or being 6th. The spread of our cars at the moment is milliseconds.

“And as much as it pains me to see a driver that through no fault of their own won't be racing on Sunday, I have to prioritise the team above all else.

“Logan has been tremendous. He's here to support the team in this regard. He's clearly very much hurting as a result of this decision but equally strong in as much as he knows the team above all else is the priority.”

James Vowles at Australian GP 2024

Production delays

The remarkable situation that Williams has found itself in is the result of the squad being late with the production of its 2024 car.

Vowles explained that with the team already being up against it to get two cars ready for the start of the season, one of the consequences was that completion of its spare drifted on later than was ideal.

“As a result of the work that took place across the winter, we stressed the organisation to the absolute limit,” he said. “We pushed everything as far as it could do.

“What it meant, as a result of that, is off the back end of being very late on some of the production, the spare chassis starts to move backwards.

“No team plans to come to an event without a spare chassis. In doing so you create risk. In the absolute best case it's uncomfortable, and in the worst case, one of the cars is not racing. And that's the situation we face today.

“We have to ensure that we never, ever put ourselves in that situation again going forward in the future. We are here to go racing, and to only have one car here on Saturday and Sunday simply isn't what we're built to do.”

As well as Albon’s car being damaged beyond immediate repair, his gearbox was split in two and the power unit also took a knock.

Vowles said Williams would now fly the chassis back to its Grove headquarters for repairs so it could then be shipped to the next race in Japan.

Vowles added: “The chassis will be back in the UK as quick as we can possibly make it, and will be repaired such as we are able to race again in Japan with two cars.”