Nyck de Vries’ career has experienced particular moments, from the difficulties in managing the pressure in some phases of his career in the preparatory series to the joy of the Formula E world title with Mercedes.
A long road which, however, experienced a turning point on a weekend in September, when, following a medical problem affecting Alex Albon, the Dutchman was called at the last minute to replace him in the 2022 Italian Grand Prix. For De Vries it was the debut in Formula 1, in which he also managed to conquer the first world championship points thanks to the ninth place under the checkered flag.
That weekend with Williams turned the tables, because it gave him the opportunity to showcase his talent thus attracting the attention of Red Bull, enough to convince the Austrian company to guarantee him a chance in AlphaTauri for 2023.
A weekend which, however, initially he didn’t even want to participate, because he was eager to fly to Japan for a race in the Endurance Championship: “That weekend there was a WEC race in Fuji and I had the opportunity to race for a team that would have given me the chance to fight for the win. In reality, I was very eager to go to Fuji because I would have raced and I knew that, instead, going to Monza on the karat I wouldn’t have raced”, explained De Vries in the podcast created by the team of Faenza.
“But obviously we were committed to doing some FP1 sessions and it was decided that the best choice for everyone would be to do FP1 at Monza with Aston (Martin). So, instead of racing at Fuji, I did FP1 with Aston, the which was obviously fantastic anyway. I was super relaxed that night, went back to Mercedes after FP1, then until midnight with the engineers.”
The turning point came on Saturday morning, when Alex Albon suddenly had to go to hospital with appendicitis, leaving Williams with an empty seat to replace. The choice fell precisely on the Dutchman, who in any case had the opportunity to test the car both on the simulator and in a free practice session in the first part of the season: “I was super relaxed, my weekend was over. The next morning I arrived at track and I had an appearance at the paddock club at 10, 10.30, and it was still quite empty.”
The celebrations for De Vries’ ninth place, thanks to which he also won his first points in F1.
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“So rather than speaking in front of a crowd, I went and sat down with some guests, ordered a cappuccino and then James Vowles called me and said, ‘Can you come to the Mercedes office? You could race for Williams’ And I couldn’t understand what he just said. I thought he was talking about the future, maybe next season, but I didn’t understand.”
“But no, he told me something was up and I could race. I was excited, I went to Mercedes and all the engineers were happy for me, even though I told them to calm down. I went to Williams to find out what the problem was. Unfortunately, Alex was taken to hospital overnight with appendicitis. At that point it wasn’t certain whether or not I was going to race. But 20 minutes later, during the pre-FP3 meeting, it had become clear that I was going to face the weekend and from that At the moment I have never left the technical office and the garage”.
The ninth place obtained under the checkered flag attracted the attention of various personalities, including those of Helmut Marko, head of Red Bull. For De Vries, one of the fundamental points in conquering the AlphaTauri seat was to make it clear that his relationship with Mercedes would not continue beyond 2022, as also explained to Max Verstappen at a dinner after the GP.
“We (he and Verstappen) had dinner together on Monday night to celebrate his victory and my debut. It was nice to share that moment with him. Of course we talked about the future and the opportunities. And I think the most important thing I taken away from that dinner is that I was still publicly perceived as a Mercedes driver, as I was until the end of 2022. I think it was important for me to clarify that I was part of Mercedes until the end of 2022. So I think it was it’s good for me to clarify my situation so as not to miss potential opportunities and that’s how it went. Then that week I had another meeting in Austria.”
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