If anyone knows what Nick de Vries was going through when he was suddenly called up to race his first F1 Grand Prix at the Italian Grand Prix, it’s George Russell.
Both drivers have been Mercedes development drivers for many years and faced each other in the 2018 Formula 2 championship, won by George Russell. The following year, Nick de Vries won the F2 championship.
But while George Russell signed a deal with the Williams F1 team to spend three seasons at the bottom of the F1 grid, Nick de Vries opted to race for Mercedes’ Formula E team and secure the 2021 title secured. .
However, Nick de Vries’ sights are now back in F1, taking part in free practice sessions for three different teams this year – Williams, Mercedes and Aston Martin.
Nick de Vries was relaxing over a cappuccino at the Paddock Club on Saturday morning after finishing his last day of work with Aston Martin at Monza when Williams asked him to come to his campervan as soon as possible.
Alexander Albon was ill and Nick de Vries was invited by Williams to take part in qualifying and the final of the F1 Italian Grand Prix less than an hour after the start of the final practice session.
George Russell sympathizes with Nick de Vries and is stepping down from the reigning champion Mercedes F1 team after Lewis Hamilton tested positive for coronavirus after 36 races with Williams in 2020. I remembered when I was told told to do it.
George Russell had some F1 racing experience at the time and had prepared by being told he would be racing almost a week before the F1 Sakir Grand Prix. So, unlike Nick de Vries who was flagged 40 minutes ago, he didn’t have to worry about what was to come.
“Honestly, it was probably harder for him than for me,” admitted George Russell.
“I was, of course, a full-time racing driver at the time.”
Nick de Vries seemed to have the advantage of having been on track in an Aston Martin the day before, but George Russell may have been another hurdle he had to overcome that day.
“I jumped into Aston Martin’s Williams on Friday…it’s a different car. It’s a different seating position,” explained George Russell.
“I remember driving Formula 2 at the time, testing with Mercedes and Force India. It took quite a few laps to get used to the different feel of how those cars reacted.
George Russell finished his first race with the Mercedes F1 team in 9th place in points. Coincidentally, Nick de Vries achieved the same result on Sunday at the Italian F1 Grand Prix. Considering his car was a Williams, perhaps the most significant achievement.
After Sakir, George Russell scored four more points before finally moving to Mercedes full-time at the start of 2022 after returning to Williams for the remainder of the season races and the entirety of 2021.
George Russell is yet to win a race, but this year at Monza he picked up his seventh podium of the season and enjoys a surprisingly consistent fourth place in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
The question is whether Nick de Vries will follow a similar trajectory and use his impressive debut at Monza to secure a full-time spot on the F1 grid for 2023.
It is also unclear whether Alexander Albon will be able to recover from appendicitis and post-surgery complications and be ready to race in Singapore at the end of the month.
Otherwise, it’s unclear if Nick de Vries will ever get another shot at the wheel of Williams. Williams’ official reserve driver is Jack Aitken, but he was battling elsewhere last week so the team turned to Nick de Vries as part of a driver-sharing deal with Mercedes.
Ironically, it was Jack Aitken who made his F1 debut as a replacement for George Russell at the 2020 F1 Sakhir GP, but the FW43 failed to score points on that occasion.