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‘I’m flattered... but it’s out of my control’: Nyck de Vries on the prospect of a Formula 1 seat in 2023

Exclusive interview: The highly regarded Dutchman reveals his thoughts as a seat at Aston Martin becomes available and details how Lewis Hamilton ‘coached’ him at the French Grand Prix

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Saturday 30 July 2022 09:58 BST
Lewis Hamilton Reacts To Sebastian Vettel's Retirement

All it took was a four-time world champion grasping at thin air in the twilight of his career to call it a day and, quicker than the Aston Martin he so knottily has grappled with this season, Formula 1’s “silly season” bounces into full swing. And from the off, the jury’s out.

Simply put, there is no No 1 contender to replace the irreplaceable Sebastian Vettel, such is the German’s star quality on and off the track. Yet while the current grid turns to Budapest this weekend, there is an option racing closer to home – at the London E-Prix – who has been waiting patiently in the wings for quite some time.

As so often is the way with cards covered in the corridors of power, the drivers in the cockpit are as short of knowledge as the rest of us. Yet few are quite as in the dark, or quite as unlucky, as Nyck de Vries. Now 27, having won Formula 2 in 2019 and Formula E last year, the question simply begs: what more could the Dutchman have done for a spot on the grandest table of them all?

“It’s really out of my control and, to that point, I won’t be able to influence the teams,” De Vries tells The Independent, outside the Mercedes-EQ garage at the ExCeL Centre in east London, ahead of the penultimate race in Formula E’s eighth season.

“The only way to continue your career successfully forwards is to perform and deliver on track and that’s what I’ll be trying to do in the remainder of the season.”

With Aston’s close relationship with Mercedes, De Vries also acts as a reserve driver for Lawrence Stroll’s team, alongside No 1 reserve Nico Hulkenberg. So, why not give team principal Mike Krack a call to enquire? After all, as the tale goes, Alex Albon handed in a literal CV to Williams CEO Jost Capito last year to secure one of the 20 coveted F1 seats.

“They’re all good stories afterwards, aren’t they?” De Vries says of Albon’s originality. “Mercedes share reserve driver duties with Aston so they do know me! I feel flattered to see my name come up but it’s not something in my control and it’s not my decision. Time will tell what my future brings… I just try to live in the moment.”

Living in the moment is, as it happens, an apt description of De Vries’s compellingly entertaining few weeks. First there was the glitz of the New York E-Prix a fortnight ago, before the ultimate glimmer of stardom last week. Having featured in a Williams in first practice at the Spanish Grand Prix in May, jumping in the cockpit of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in Le Castellet was as thrilling as it was nerve-shredding. Practice for everyone else; chance of a lifetime for De Vries.

“It’s a difficult balance in FP1 because it was an opportunity to show my worth but at the same time I had to be sensible,” De Vries says, in the tone of someone unwavering at the thought of a money-spinning shunt. “There is a little bit of additional pressure and all sorts of thoughts going through your head but all that matters is you and the car.

Toto Wolff was impressed with De Vries’s hour of running in Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in France (AFP via Getty Images)

“As soon as you put your helmet on and you drive out of the garage, that’s all I know. Luckily enough I’ve been doing this for some years now and I know the people in the garage, so I felt their support which is certainly what you need in those moments.”

Toto Wolff, impressed with De Vries’s hour of running as he finished ninth on the timesheets and just half-a-second off teammate George Russell, revealed how Hamilton acted as a “coach” to the test driver, with confidante Angela Cullen helping too.

“As soon as we are connected to the umbilical we started speaking, otherwise the whole world could listen,” De Vries says of Hamilton, as the £32m-a-year star guided the novice round Paul Ricard’s straights and bends.

“He was taking me through the session which was great. There’s a lot of tools in the cars and the balance is changing throughout the lap. Lewis advised me to change certain tools in the car to influence that balance. It’s a real team – Lewis and Angela were super supportive and very kind. It’s a big thing to do an FP1 for them.”

In the immediacy for De Vries is the indoor-outdoor London E-Prix down the docks by the Thames, a circuit where De Vries won last year on his way to winning the seventh season of this single-seater electric series which is only growing, possibly exponentially, in popularity and marketability.

De Vries won Formula E last season and was victorious on the docks in London (Getty Images)

While in 2021 “all the stars aligned to execute the championship”, this year De Vries admits he has had “several moments where it hasn’t quite worked out” since winning the race opener in Saudi Arabia. His teammate, ex-McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne, leads the series with four races to go, with this weekend and the final meet in two weeks’ time in Seoul both double-headers.

“It’s a new path in my career but the level here is extremely high,” De Vries concludes. “It’s one of the most competitive championships out there so I feel privileged to have won it.”

With current F1 stars Mick Schumacher, Guanyu Zhou and Nicholas Latifi all having fallen a cropper to De Vries in F2 three years ago, the Dutchman’s rub of the green is yet to land him in the most treasured of paddocks. That, or he is not backed by billions in the family bank.

But despite Wolff insisting he cannot help De Vries find a seat in Formula 1, maybe Vettel’s surprise departure will pave the way for something new. Maybe the domino effect will trickle down as other spots become available in the coming weeks. Maybe, just maybe, it will be time for De Vries.

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