Nyck de Vries - Road To Formula 1

Nyck de Vries - Road To Formula 1

motorsport journalist

Rob Peeters

Motorsport Journalist

Nyck de Vries officially begins his Formula One career on March 5th in Bahrain when the lights go out and the 2023 season begins. The road to Formula One is typically a hard one to travel for most drivers with dreams of becoming a World Champion. The 27-year-old de Vries has had a long journey to prove he belongs in Formula One. 

For most drivers, simply winning a championship in a junior formula category is enough to vault their careers into Formula One. De Vries however, needed to prove himself in professional categories before finally getting his big break. 

He began his single seater career in 2012, following dual karting titles in the WSK Euro Series and the CIK-FIA World Karting Championship in 2011. Driving for R-ace GP in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series, de Vries began his first single seater campaign with a podium in the opening race at Aragón, finishing 2nd to then-future Formula One driver Daniil Kyvat. 

Following the opening race, de Vries experienced growing pains, adjusting to single seater race cars. His 2012 campaign was inconsistent, though he did visit the podium again in the second race of the Hungarian round and lock up fifth in the championship.

The Hungaroring ended up being an important venue one year later. Following his first podium of the 2013 season, de Vries won his first single seater race in the second race of the Hungarian round. In the penultimate round of the season at Circuit Paul Ricard in France, de Vries recorded his third straight podium finish in the first race. Despite a disappointing 12th place finish in race two in France, de Vries wrapped up the 2013 season with a win and a second place in the final round in Catalunya, Spain. 

The 2014 season was de Vries best in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. He won the opening race of the season in Aragón and then went on to win the title with just four finishes off the podium out of the total 14 races.

After three seasons and one championship in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, de Vries moved to the Formula Renault 3.5 series for 2015 and joined the DAMS team. 

With the experience afforded to him following his first three seasons in single seaters, de Vries impressed in his next step of the junior formula ladder. While he was unable to win a race until the final round of the season in Jarez, consistent points and podium finishes propelled de Vries into third in the championship. 

Following an impressive run in Formula Renault 3.5, de Vries moved to the highly competitive GP3 championship for 2016. He joined the dominant ART Grand Prix and was paired with teammates Charles Leclerc, Alexander Albon, and Nirei Fukuzumi. To say the expectations were high would be an understatement. ART was the defending team’s champion in GP3, having won the title along with Esteban Ocon who won the driver’s title. 

While Charles Leclerc went on to win the 2016 GP3 title, but Nyck de Vries impressed despite the increased competition level. De Vries posted five podiums during the season with two of those being wins at Monza and Abu Dhabi, respectively. He scored one pole position for the Hungaroring feature race but ended up finishing 20th

A sixth place finish in the 2016 GP3 championship was the lowest points finish for de Vries’ single seater career at that time. Despite this, he improved enough to earn a ride in the FIA Formula 2 series with Rapax for 2017. 

Now in the last step before Formula One, Nyck de Vries needed to impress if his dreams of making it to the grid were to be realized. Thankfully, there’s no better place to make a statement and get your first win than during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. Following a 7th place finish in the feature race, de Vries took his first F2 victory in the sprint race the next day. 

The victory in Monaco was the only F2 victory for de Vries in 2017. Following a team change to Racing Engineering after the summer break, he finished the season 7th in the championship. He had two other podiums after the Monaco victory, taking second place at both the Azerbaijan feature race and the Spa-Francorchamps sprint race. 

Much like his time in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, de Vries took a couple seasons to develop into a consistent race winner and champion. He moved to the Prema Powerteam for 2018 and collected three victories along with three other podiums en route to a 4th place finish in the championship. While his 2018 season still featured some inconsistent finishes, he was starting to make a name for himself as a frontrunner in the Formula 2 championship. 

Considered a favorite for the 2019 Formula 2 championship, de Vries had moved back to his GP3 team of ART Grand Prix. His results during the season were much more consistent. He finished outside the points just three times throughout the season and was running at the finish of every race. He collected four victories and twelve podiums en route to winning the 2019 F2 championship.

During the season however, de Vries struggled to put together a program to run Formula One in 2020. Despite being the frontrunner and favorite for the title, Formula One teams did not have the required vacancies nor was de Vries able to find funding to help secure a ride. 

Nyck de Vries First Formula 2 Podium

Mercedes however was starting a Formula E team for the 2019-2020 season and was looking to fill out their driver roster. De Vries was offered a factory driver position with the Mercedes EQ Formula E team following his F2 title run. He was paired with ex-Formula One racer Stoffel Vandoorne for the 2020 season. 

It might not have been Formula One, but having a factory drive in a major single seater series was still a major accomplishment. The Formula E competition is typically very tight and drivers tend to struggle with consistency in the championship. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Formula E season was truncated after the fourth round with the remaining races being completed nearly six months later. The lack of track and seat time hindered de Vries in his first Formula E season. He finally hit his stride in the final race of the 2020 season when he scored his first Formula E podium with a second-place finish at the final Berlin ePrix race. He carried that momentum into the first round of the 2021 season, taking his first Formula E victory at the first race of the Diriyah ePrix. 

De Vries’ victory in the opening round began a season long title battle that stayed tight through to the final round. His championship rivals struggled with consistency, but de Vries struggled with his own consistency and the reliability of the Mercedes Formula E car. He was unable to capitalize on his rivals’ struggles, leaving his points lead vulnerable at any time. 

At the final race of the season, de Vries held a slim points lead over Edoardo Mortara. An 8th place finish for de Vries and a retirement for Mortara formally clinched the title in de Vries’ favor by just seven points. 

Now a champion in a major single seater series, Nyck de Vries had all but proven himself as a driver who deserves an opportunity at the highest level. However, he was still unable to put together a program for himself in Formula One and the clock was ticking. In August of 2021, Mercedes announced it was ending its Formula E program following the 2022 season and de Vries would need to find a place to race for 2023 and beyond. 

Nyck de Vries & RedBull Media

After winning the season opening race in Saudi Arabia, much like he had done the previous year, de Vries raised his consistency levels during the 2022 Formula E season. He posted just one finish outside the top-10, but retired from four races, significantly hindering his championship defense. He finished 9th in the Formula E championship at season’s end. 

In September, de Vries was tapped to fill in for former rival Alexander Albon at Williams after Albon was hospitalized with appendicitis. He had served as a test driver for Williams throughout the season, but the relief role was finally his first opportunity at an F1 Grand Prix. 

Almost immediately, de Vries was up to speed in the F1 cockpit. He made it to the second round of qualifying and posted a time quick enough for 13th. After a series of penalties to other drivers, de Vries was elevated to the eighth starting position. He had a stellar run during the race, finishing ninth and scoring points on debut. De Vries’ ninth place finish was Williams’ fourth points-scoring finish of the season, and first by a driver that wasn’t Alexander Albon. 

The impressive result further cemented the idea that Nyck de Vries was ready for Formula One. He just needed a seat to open. Thankfully for him, the dominos were about to fall. After the announcement that Pierre Gasly would leave AlphaTauri to join Alpine for the 2023 season, it was announced that de Vries would join the team and replace the departing Gasly. 

Now, as the 2023 Formula One season is on the horizon, de Vries faces the toughest challenge of his racing career: to be a rookie on the most exclusive grid in all of motor racing. If his career history is any indicator, it might take him a while to adjust to the bigger car and the effort level required for F1, but once de Vries hits his stride, he won’t stop until the championship trophy is in his hands.





 

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