How De Vries impressed three F1 teams and attracted two more

Nyck de Vries’ Formula 1 prospects have been completely changed during a strange year that is likely to complete an extraordinary journey of driving F1 full time.

From today, De Vries will be driving four different F1 cars in about four months – 2022 Williams, Mercedes and Aston Martin, as well as the 2021 Alpine he’s believed to try in Hungary this week. A fifth organisation, Red Bull, hasn’t even worked with De Vries but is now seriously courting his services.

This year, De Vries becomes a new player at 27, the oldest since Brendon Hartley (28) in 2017, and the tournament’s newest scorer. He is almost certain to get a seat at either Williams, Alpine or Alvatore next year.

It’s a great turnaround for the driver who became a Formula E world champion and was due to take part in the dual FE/World Endurance Championship for 2023 with Maserati and Toyota, but could instead target the realistic shot in Formula 1 that was never so likely until recently.

Over eight seasons in the junior classes, mostly McLaren team protectors, de Vries’ reputation has gone from “karting prodigy” to “overlooked Formula 2 champion”.

Although he has never had a single proper F1 test during this time, it serves as evidence that he has never been treated as a serious F1 candidate. De Vries has instead focused on a career in sports cars and Formula E while maintaining a tangible connection to F1 through his work as a reserve and development driver.

By the end of 2020, he finally got his first real Formula One ride – a day with Mercedes, his Formula E employer, in the post-season Abu Dhabi test. De Vries had the same opportunity in 2021. This was a result of regulatory requirements – teams needed to run a car for inexperienced drivers – and nothing more, just as his Friday 2022 training outings with Williams, Mercedes and Aston Martin were interpreted as.

Now that three different teams in F1 have worked with De Vries in the past few months, though, we can see a clear pattern in their notes that chimes with what De Vries achieved at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix – and helps explain why two teams have such a haven. De Vries has been in one of their cars but they are very interested in that.

De Vries’ performance in his shock debut in F1 was a surprise to the majority, primarily due to the circumstances being called in not only before Saturday’s final practice session but also because of his reputation. His portrayal of the facts about his career as a driver was good, perhaps even better, but he failed to convince the right people that he deserved serious attention.

In fact, De Vries was a cool driver quietly behind the scenes. It is often much easier to identify drivers who look out of their depth when offering Friday practice outings than it is to judge them beyond the basics. But de Vries’ professionalism and approach have caught the eye everywhere he has worked this season.

“It was an absolute pleasure to deal with him,” says Tom McCullough, Aston Martin’s director of performance, the team that recently worked with De Vries for the first time by managing Friday’s training in Italy – 24 hours before Williams’ unexpected call. -above.

“Technically speaking, he has a good understanding of the key aspects.

Formula 1 World Championship, Italian Grand Prix practice day, Monza, Italy

“Obviously he’s been driving a few Formula 1 cars, even before this year. So, he was able to quickly get very similar reactions to Lance. [Stroll] In FP1 and Sebastian [Vettel] When he picked up the car in FP2.

“It was a very easy transition from us, both in the simulator and also on the track.

“He was very professional and was very sane, and made his way with a reasonably tough car balance we had for both drivers in FP1. Overall, it’s a really good job.”

Aston Martin had little concern that De Vries would do exactly that after discussing its availability with its primary employer.

Mercedes is the team that knows de Vries best. He’s driven more than 700 miles in Mercedes F1 cars, which isn’t a particularly impressive tally but it’s far more than De Vries has managed with any other team. More importantly, he performed more duties in private.

“We’ve always liked him,” says Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ racetrack engineering director.

Formula 1 World Championship, French Grand Prix practice day, Paul Ricard, France

“But the nice thing is that he understands the priorities: Don’t make mistakes and definitely don’t crash, focus on the testing and learning program we need, and then third, worry about speed.

“He is able to do first and second place very easily, and then take third place really well.

And he’s also always thinking, ‘How can I improve even more? What do I need to know?

“He’s a very accomplished driver, given his relatively little experience in Formula One. Every time he gets in the car for us, he’s impressed.”

De Vries has raced in various series in his career and raced or tested nearly a dozen cars. His experience outside of Formula 1 ranges from 2-liter Formula Renaults to LMP1 sports cars, and it’s clear that organizations such as McLaren, Mercedes and Toyota have given him a lot of appreciation for how he works professionally.

But for this to really pay off in the driver, he must have the right mindset. It is noteworthy that when considering FP1’s third outing of the season with the largest number of teams, De Vries specified “how much interest and value in terms of experience” to be involved in various organizations.

Formula 1 World Championship, Italian Grand Prix Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy

“Of course, all the teams have a very high level of professionalism and work at the highest level in our sport,” he said at Monza.

“However, there are big differences between the teams, not only in terms of the car and how they act and feel, but also within the organizational structure and how they approach things, where they focus on development and improvement.”

This is a one-of-a-kind note among the frivolity of “Friday’s General Driver Notes” and it’s an honest note. This level of intelligence and enthusiasm for learning will be present throughout his career – undetectable from anywhere at this point – but as de Vries matures, his acuity seems to have come to the fore.

What Williams particularly noted is how direct De Vries can be. “Nick is very fanatical,” says Joost Capito, Williams team principal.

“He is very focused. He is very fast. And he knows what he wants.”

Capito’s comments on De Vries’ strengths are succinct but come from an informed place of understanding. Williams first got to know De Vries about an FP1 outing in Spain – his first three Friday appearances this year – but then it is clear that he watched him closely in Italy.

However, the “pressure” Capito was referring to was easy to notice from the outside, let alone the inside.

FIA Formula 1 World Championship, Italian Grand Prix Day, Monza, Italy

De Vries was keen on making qualifying decisions when it came to wing levels and prioritizing track location over getting a drag so he could dictate tire setup. About that, though, he was happy to defer to the team over the tire compound selection for the Grand Prix – he clearly told the team he wanted them to decide – and relentlessly asked for feedback and also advice on changing switches and situations as well.

Basically, De Vries will be assertive if he is confident that he knows what is going on. While this trait usually becomes more prominent with experience, Williams’ head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson, remembers it when he first worked with De Vries at McLaren more than a decade ago.

“Even when he drove in FP1 in Barcelona, ​​he’s not afraid to say what he wants,” says Robson.

“And the [it’s the same throughout] My experience working with him, I’ve known him now and then for a long time, and I was at McLaren when he was there when he was 15.

“Until then, he is not afraid to say what he wants and the vast majority of the time he is right. That is exactly what a good competitive racing driver should be.

“He has a very good sense of what he wants out of the car, what he needs and how to get it. He knows what he wants. But he’s very practical about what’s possible too.

“He is pushing at the right level. He is good and professional in that regard. He obviously has a lot of experience working with teams of engineers and knowing how to get them to deliver what he wants.”

FIA Formula 1 World Championship, Italian Grand Prix Day, Monza, Italy

De Vries is a serious candidate for a 2023 race seat and is on the radar of three teams: Williams, Alpine and AlphaTauri. Although he would be a complete novice without a heavy F1 resume, he would combine his broader career experience with some options, and very well-executed Formula One outings.

It is clear that those who have watched De Vries closely do not question his F1 credentials at all.

“Some of it might just be Nick’s character,” Robson says. “But I think the experience definitely helps.

“The fact that he is confident, knows how to race, and what to expect, can make learning the simple things more straightforward and getting the extra bandwidth he needs.

“It makes a huge difference to get in on such short notice [at Monza] And don’t be bothered by it in any way.

“It’s just a sign of his confidence, experience, and general maturity.”

This has also been evident every time de Vries has faced the media this year after one of his tours on Friday. Whether at Williams, Mercedes, Aston Martin or Williams again, de Vries spoke carefully but with confidence.

He showed gratitude to his teams and respected the world for feeling he “deserved a chance” in but was repeatedly rejected and struck a great balance between doing FP1 outings for what they were and admitting he was at least in a shop window.

Formula 1 World Championship, Italian Grand Prix Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy

“Judging someone takes a lot more than a one-hour session,” he says.

“I think your history, what you’re currently doing, what you’ve been doing, your feedback, how you’ve worked with the team, no bugs, consistency – there’s a lot to take into account.

“But still in an hour session, for me you get a chance to show something. When it’s there, you take it.”

De Vries never acted with any sense of entitlement and his patience and professionalism finally paid off.

He just accepted the reality of his situation. “You need a little bit of momentum, the timing has to be right, there has to be room,” de Vries said after driving an Aston Martin at Monza.

Within 24 hours of that statement, those factors combined to give him his Formula One debut. Unless something dramatic intervenes, they will also get him to drive full-time F1 next year.

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