F1 News

Timing seemed perfect for De Vries: 'F1 debut Hamilton was a success story'

Timing seemed perfect for De Vries: 'F1 debut Hamilton was a success story'

1 February - 09:52 Last update: 12:32


Nyck de Vries has always held on to his dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver, but there have been times when he almost gave up on that dream. The fact that he was also a late bloomer did not help, as De Vries explained on the podcast Tauri Talk.

De Vries reached F1 via a long and somewhat unusual diversion. When he switched to Formula 2 from GP3 in 2017, everything still seemed to be going according to plan, but in 2018 he failed to finish in the top three in the standings and saw several fellow drivers make the big move to Formula 1. The following year, he captured the title, but that performance was not rewarded with a permanent seat in the king class of motorsport.

Four years later, the Dutchman sees his big dream come true after all. Meanwhile, he has a Formula E championship to his name and worked for years as Mercedes' test and reserve driver. In that capacity, the ultimate opportunity presented itself at the Italian Grand Prix: Alexander Albon fell ill and De Vries was allowed to fill in for him at Williams.

Long road to F1 for De Vries

His GP debut impressed Helmut Marko enough to earn him a permanent seat at AlphaTauri. “I’m one of the older guys, so I’ve walked quite a long journey to get here," says De Vries. "Like all young drivers, I started my career in karting. I actually grew up with many of the current drivers on the grid. I feel like I am kind of part of their generation."

In 2010, he signed up for McLaren's training programme. "I think at the time, the timing was really good because Lewis just made his debut in Formula 1 and that was obviously a very successful story. Therefore a lot of Formula 1 teams were interested in young drivers and scout them at a young age, to kind of replicate a similar success story," the Frisian driver continued his story.

However, the following seasons in the junior categories did not go particularly smoothly for De Vries, which he said was partly due to the fact that he was physically behind the rest. "I think physically I was quite underdeveloped. I was a late bloomer, so I was 17, but probably my body was 14." Nevertheless, he eventually triumphed in Formula Renault, after which he finished third in Formula Renault 3.5. However, this was followed by a tough season in the GP3 class.

Difficult time after losing McLaren support

Where he initially seemed to have a golden future at McLaren, it was Lando Norris who eventually progressed to the king class of motorsport. De Vries lost the financial backing of the Woking-based team at the end of 2016. "From that year onwards I was really going through a tough time, because basically I didn’t have any way of continuing my career forward because there was no financial backing anymore and I didn’t know how to how to continue," De Vries added.

He considered giving up on his F1 dream, but managed to secure himself a seat in F2 at the last minute in 2017 with the help of Ricardo Gelael, father of rival Sean Gelael. His first season in the class was mainly about survival and making sure he could keep racing in the single-seaters.

The following year was extremely competitive with drivers like George Russell, Lando Norris and Alex Albon, all three finishing ahead of him in the championship and advancing to F1. De Vries was left behind and although he won the title himself a year later, F1 had no place for him. However, Mercedes did offer him a contract as a test and reserve driver. This would eventually earn him a permanent seat after all due to his performance at Monza.

However, it would still take several years before De Vries would get that chance. In the meantime, he competed in the LMP2 class of the World Endurance Championship and participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times, his best result being a fourth place in 2022. However, his greatest success was in Formula E, where he became world champion in the 2020-2021 season.