F1: Nyck de Vries’ incredible debut and what it means for 2023

Nyck de Vries has took the step up to Formula One in his stride, with 2023 looking bright for the Williams driver, Rhonan Colquhoun reports.

(Photo credit: XPB/Alamy Live News)

As one Dutchman steps closer to becoming a Double World Champion, another steps closer to achieving his long-awaited dream of becoming a full-time Formula One driver.

Hoping to join fellow countryman Max Verstappen on next year’s grid, Nyck de Vries produced one of the finest grand prix debuts to date which has undoubtedly strengthened his chances of gaining a seat for next season.

Recently whenever a seat becomes available, de Vries’ name is amongst the crop of drivers vying to secure an F1 drive. The 2019 F2 Champion has missed out on opportunities to secure a drive unlike fellow drivers to have won the same accolade such as George Russell, Charles Leclerc and Mick Schumacher.

With no race seats available ahead of the 2020 F1 Season, de Vries made his debut in Formula E with Mercedes at the end of 2019. In only his second season, he piloted his silver Mercedes to the 2020/21 title beating more experienced drivers in one of the closest title fights to date. As a reward, de Vries became a Mercedes’ Reserve Driver.

After completing his third Friday Practice session of the season with Aston Martin – the two previous were earlier in the year at Spain with Williams and France for Mercedes – the 27 year-old thought he’d be watching the Italian GP from the sidelines in the Mercedes garage.

However, unfortunately for Williams’ Alexander Albon, his weekend took an unexpected turn where the Thai-Brit was diagnosed with appendicitis which ruled him out of the upcoming race. The Grove team contacted de Vries who was getting stuck into his breakfast early on Saturday morning.

A decision had to be made; on one hand there was finishing his porridge but on the other hand there was the chance of getting the opportunity to prove his worth and make his GP debut. In the end, it was probably the easiest decision de Vries has ever made.

Completing 21 laps, de Vries finished the Third Practice session on Saturday morning in 14th – just one place and under a tenth of a second behind temporary team-mate Nicholas Latifi.

Come Qualifying, de Vries kept his chances of progressing through to Q2 alive right until the end and with a couple of good laps as the clock ticked down, de Vries had booked himself a place in Q2 at the expense of Latifi with 0.020 of a second between them. The Dutchman managed to qualify 13th – splitting the Alfa Romeo drivers of Valterri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.

With nearly half the drivers choosing to take grid penalties, de Vries was promoted to eighth. Williams and de Vries remained level-headed however as they expected faster cars to overcome their penalties and ease their way back into the points but both sides were looking forward to what was to come over the 53 lap race.

As the lights went out, de Vries got an excellent launch, thanks to the aggressive strategy he and the team pinned their hopes on with the Soft tyre, and kept his wits about him navigating his way through the tight first chicane.

As a train of cars formed behind the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, de Vries held his own in eighth place, staying within a second of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso ahead and maintaining a gap to the Alfa Romeo of Zhou behind. Thanks to the straight-line speed of the Williams, de Vries stayed in eighth and brilliantly executed his first ever pit-stop.

Reappearing on the Medium tyre, de Vries slowly moved back into the top ten with Zhou still clinging onto the rear of the Williams. With the retirement of Alonso, de Vries sat in tenth and had increased the gap between himself and the Alfa Romeo behind when the Safety Car was deployed.

Ricciardo’s race came to a heartbreaking end on Lap 47 and while fans of the Australian sighed with frustration, the Williams garage leapt for joy as de Vries now moved up into ninth. While the FIA decided that the race would end under the Safety Car, the Monza Paddock was filled with differing emotions.

The thousands of passionate fans would not get a grandstand finish they wanted but with no overtaking allowed, de Vries’ dream debut had come true. As he crossed the line, de Vries was grateful as he came over team radio – thanking the team whilst at the same time trying to make sense of his achievement.

Pulling into the pit-lane, the exhausted Dutchman took a few moments to revel in what he had just accomplished and it was the time he needed to compose himself to ask his team for help. Having never completed 53 consecutive racing laps, de Vries was physically drained and his shoulders were shot. Williams mechanics ran over and gave a helping hand assisting him out of the FW44.

Post-race, de Vries was greeted and congratulated by fellow drivers in the media pen while nobody could wipe the smile off his face. His grin grew larger when he was informed that he had been awarded the “Driver of the Day ” award voted for by fans. Even a reprimand by the stewards for “driving erratically” behind the Safety Car couldn’t dent his happiness.

Ahead of next season, there are still a number of seats up for grabs but there is a huge list of competitive drivers staking their claims. One of the strongest claims now has to be held by de Vries as he’s made a concrete case to why he should be on the grid. It only took him one race to score points, the team’s fourth points score of the season, and he out-qualified and finished ahead of Latifi.

For a rookie to come in and do what de Vries managed, along with the calmness and composure he demonstrated, is quite simply out-standing. The Dutchman is now a prime candidate to replace Latifi for next season and line-up alongside Alexander Albon who’s recently renewed his contract. There’s still one seat at both Alpine and Haas available so there’s potentially more than one option for the talented Dutchman.

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