How Dutch became the name of the moment; Drugovich learns what?

Few names were as talked about in the F1 paddock last weekend in Italy as Nyck De Vries, something curious as he is a driver who made his debut as Alex Albon’s replacement at Williams at the age of 27, and who was coming orbiting the category for a long time. But it has only now become the name of the moment in the driver market for 2023.

De Vries had a good career in karting, winning the world championship twice. In formula cars, he made less clear progress. Although he won titles at the level of Formula Renault 2.0 (something comparable to F4 today), it took him three years to move up to Formula 3 cars, and then two more to reach F2.

In the category, he raced for smaller teams in his debut season, winning one race. Then he was fourth in the second season, for Prema (behind George Russell, Lando Norris and Alex Albon in the championship), and took the title the following year with a double round of anticipation, for ART GP, that is, racing with two of the best teams in the championship. Nicholas Latifi was the runner-up that year.

That was in 2019. Since 2010, he was part of the McLaren young driver program, but he had left the team at the beginning of 2019, focusing on the parallel work he was doing with Audi, which led him to endurance. With no doors open in F1 and with a reputation as a tough-talented driver, he ended up moving to Formula E and starting an association with Mercedes. In the electric car category, he was champion in his second season, and became a reserve driver for the Germans in F1.

This vacancy means that De Vries is always working on setting up the car and testing modifications to the team’s simulator, and also that he is present on several race weekends, participating in meetings and living inside the most successful team in recent years in F1. .

That’s when the tide seemed to turn for the Dutchman. His difficult behavior is no longer heard of as before, and the experience with Mercedes opened doors for him this year, which coincided with the adoption of a rule requiring teams to give up their cars twice a year during the first session of racing. free practice for drivers with up to 2 GPs completed in F1.

Mercedes used this to give De Vries mileage. He first rode with Williams in Spain, and beat Nicholas Latifi. He held the same post at Mercedes in France and was highly praised by Toto Wolff. In Italy, De Vries hung out with another German client, Aston Martin, and had his knowledge and professionalism praised by the team’s performance director.

All of this helped him be prepared to take the chance to show service when he was promoted to start in place of Albon by Williams last weekend. He was lucky to have already done the FP1 at Monza, to see several drivers taking penalties for changing engine and gearbox components, and for the Williams straightaway speed. But nothing takes away the merit of having had a much better weekend than Latifi.

Even because it is with the Canadian that he disputes a spot at Williams next season. And this is not his only option. De Vries is also on Alpine’s list. On the one hand, the French team is much stronger. On the other hand, it only offers a one-year contract.

And to think that, in July of this year, Toto Wolff was saying that it would be better for Mercedes to release De Vries if they couldn’t help him get a starting spot on the grid.

drugovich - Alex Pantling - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images - Alex Pantling - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images

Felipe Drugovich during the Formula 2 Monza Sprint race

Image: Alex Pantling – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images

That’s why it’s important to stay within the F1 sphere even when there aren’t any starting slots right away for the F2 champions, as is the case with Brazilian Felipe Drugovich. Like De Vries, he dominated his third season in the series, albeit against drivers who ended up disappointing. Therefore, he ends the year much less popular than last year’s champion, Oscar Piastri, for example. And it’s also true that the Australian didn’t get a starting spot right away, although in his case it was known that it was a matter of time.

Of course, there are also examples of pilots who entered reserve or development pilot slots and never went beyond that, like Callum Ilott to take a more recent example. This will always depend on the vacancies that open up (there are times when the grid is renewed faster than others). But when vacant cockpits appear, it is the drivers who know the reality of F1 from the inside that will be remembered, especially with this possibility of participating in F1 free practice, a rare chance to ride with current cars in a category that greatly limits testing.

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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