Dave Robson, Williams’ head of vehicle performance, has spoken about the prospects of Nyck de Vries joining the team for the 2023 Formula One season, although a friend of the driver’s family says he was told by Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was provided as an “insurance policy” ‘ in case Lewis Hamilton is retiring.
27-year-old De Vries currently drives with Mercedes in the Formula E championship, which he won last season, and also clinched the title in Formula 2 in 2019. He has been a Mercedes F1 test and reserve driver since early 2021, and as part of the eight-time Constructors’ Champion’s partnership with Williams, he took part in free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix in his FW44 car in place of full-time driver Alex Albon.
The FIA has introduced a new rule for the 2022 season which means that each team must field a rookie driver who has competed in fewer than two F1 Grands Prix in at least two practice sessions during the year.
That means De Vries is likely to drive again for Williams this season and also has two opportunities with Mercedes himself. The Dutchman said after his session at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona that he is aiming to earn a full-time racing seat in Formula 1.
“I would be lying if I said Formula 1 is not my goal, it is the pinnacle of our sport. I enjoy what I do in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship. Time will really tell, the most important thing is to do my job on track and deserve my chances.’
The de Vries name was heavily associated with vacancies at Alfa Romeo and Williams during the winter before Guanyu Zhou and Albon were eventually acquired by each of those teams respectively. However, he remains one of the top-rated single-seater drivers outside of Formula One and Robson says the team was impressed with his performance in Spain.
“He clearly has what it takes to be an absolute top racer,” said Robson. “I think he deserves a place on the starting line-up but so many people are. His pace was there. His ability to understand the tire and get the outlap right was really impressive.”
While Albon has impressed with his return to F1 after a year on the sidelines, teammate Nicholas Latifi is struggling significantly at the back of the grid, enduring his most difficult period in the series since joining Williams in 2020. The Canadian is a dead last 21 .in the drivers’ standings after the first seven rounds of the season, one of only two full-time racers not to have scored a point so far this season.
Speculation is now rife that De Vries will be drafted in to replace Latifi next season, although Dutch F1 pundit and family friend Tom Coronel insists De Vries is Mercedes’ top priority to replace Hamilton if the seven-time world champion decides to go away racing.
“If Lewis Hamilton retires, De Vries will get the seat,” the coronel said. ‘Do you know why? As I’ve been saying for a year, Nyck is Toto Wolff’s insurance policy. Not saying he “uses” Nyck, but that’s why he keeps him close. This is a boy doing everything he should have done.”
However, Hamilton has committed to a contract with Mercedes until at least the end of 2023 and is unlikely to step down this year despite not being able to compete for the Drivers’ Championship.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/06/williams-target-new-f1-driver-earmarked-as-potential-lewis-hamilton-replacement-for-mercedes-16778218/ Williams target new F1 driver tipped as potential Lewis Hamilton replacement for Mercedes