Formula 1 | De Vries almost ‘gave up’ on F1 dream
When the 2023 Formula 1 season begins in Bahrain, Nyck de Vries will enter his first season as a regular driver at the age of 28. As such, it will be one of the oldest drivers on the network, an unusual circumstance known to the person concerned.
“I’m one of the old guys, I’ve come a long way” said the AlphaTauri pilot. “I actually grew up around some of the drivers that are on the grid now. I feel like I’m part of their generation.”
Dutchman Lewis Hamilton, who shone in karting long before joining F1, remembers joining McLaren F1: “We were successful in karting. At that time we signed a contract with McLaren and won the European Championship and two consecutive World Championships.
“I think the timing was right because Lewis had just made his debut in Formula 1 and we all know how successful he was afterwards. That’s why a lot of teams were interested in youngsters. Drivers to repeat similar routes.”
On the other hand, it was not easy for de Vries, who had to evolve for three seasons in Formula Renault 2.0, to come up with promotion formulas.
“The first couple of years in single-seaters I would say were complicated. I think they were good in terms of performance, but because the expectations were so high, I was probably never going to be good enough. It took a little longer to get up to speed. speed up.”
“Also, I think I was physically underdeveloped. I was born late, I was 17 years old, but I had the body of a 14-year-old. But eventually I won the Formula Renault championship, then I finished third in Formula Renault 3.5 .time was the current equivalent of Formula 2. And then I joined GP3 in 2016, which was probably my toughest single-seater season.
With ART sixth in the championship that season, with teammates Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon taking the top two, Nyck de Vries began to sense that the tide was turning in McLaren F1, particularly with the arrival of Zach Brown as CEO.
“At the end of that year there was a change at the head of McLaren and I lost their financial support. From there I started a difficult period because I didn’t know how to continue my career without support. So I did a DTM test with Ferrari in Audi and GTE. At that time I was open- I was thinking of walking away from my dream, which was clearly Formula 1.
An unexpected rebound in Formula 2
But finally, thanks to the support of Ricardo Gelael, the father of pilot Sean, the Dutch driver got the opportunity to compete in Formula 2 for the 2017 season. All at the last minute.
“Literally a week before the first test of the year in F2, everything fell into place thanks to the help of Ricardo Gelael. So I was able to show up there.”
“At that time, the Rapax team was determined to welcome me and they helped me make it happen. But we only had a third of the budget and I knew it would be difficult to do the whole season. But it allowed me to be hired by Prema for the next season.”
This was not the first year in F2 “Not a real season. I didn’t have a real chance to compete for anything. It was mostly about staying alive and staying in the single seats and we managed to do that.”
In 2018, with Prema, de Vries finished fourth in the championship behind George Russell, Lando Norris and Alex Albon. And the Dutchman is now convinced he could have done better.
“If I hadn’t made a few mistakes, we could have finished second or third. I think we had good pace, we won a few races, but I was making mistakes that cost me a lot. In Formula 2, especially with two races on the weekend. , everything can be destroyed very quickly.”
“We fought for the win twice but he crashed. That makes you lose two races in one weekend. George, Lando and Alex in the top three went up to Formula 1 and I was fourth. It’s not my job.”
“Looking back, it was my fault that we didn’t score more points that year. Obviously, we had the pace and won more races than those ahead of us in the standings.”
A pressure that Premada couldn’t handle
And de Vries only admitted that he could “The pressure from the team was not good enough. They had won two championships with Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc and so their expectations of me were very high and I let myself be guided by that.”
“I remember one moment in Bahrain, we qualified fourth, which is always good in F2 because there are two races and being in the top seven is important for consistency. But when I got back to the garage, the team told me that if I didn’t win the Championship, it would be my fault. , because I wasn’t in the pool. It also affected me. At that time, I couldn’t manage that environment well enough.”
After the fight against Russell in the next round in Azerbaijan, de Vries had a hard time: “I was fighting to beat George and after the safety car I tried something and we both went off the track. I wasn’t getting any points even though I could have finished second.”
“I was very afraid to return to the garage. I literally came to the city and sat on a bench in Baku and cried. I wrote a message to my coach at that time and asked if he needed me. I was gone for about an hour and a half, because I was very afraid to come back. So I couldn’t stand the pressure.”
Title with Revenge and ART
And then came the 2019 season. This time, Nyck de Vries won the title ahead of Nicolas Latif with the ART team.
“When I joined ART, we talked a lot about my experience and what I went through and they supported me a lot. We focused on scoring points, but in 2018 we are trying to win more races than the championship.”