A few months ago, Nyck de Vries’ hopes of making a dream Formula 1 switch next year looked slim. At the French Grand Prix, the Mercedes-backed driver borrowed Lewis Hamilton’s car for first practice, but after the session Silver Arrows’ boss Toto Wolff admitted the team might not be able to provide their junior with an “interesting Formula 1 project”.
While rated highly by many in the paddock, there were simply no obvious landing spots for De Vries, who has Formula E and Formula 2 titles on his CV, in 2023.
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But in the space of two days over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, everything changed. De Vries completed a run for Aston Martin in FP1, as previously planned, but then got a late call on Saturday morning to jump in for Alex Albon (who was to have appendicitis surgery) at Williams.
The Dutch driver got up to speed incredibly quickly – having only once driven that Williams back in Spain in an FP1 appearance. Not only did he start inside the top 10 – helped in part because of a slew of penalties for others – but he held on to score two points on debut.
In the blink of an eye, De Vries has become the most sought-after driver on the current grid with Alpine, AlphaTauri and Williams all realistic options for a race seat in 2023. But where will he end up?
Option 1: Williams
Williams were impressed with his efforts when he drove the car in Spanish Grand Prix practice earlier this year. The 27-year-old diligently worked through the programme, got up to speed very quickly despite never having previously driven a 2022-spec car, and gave high quality feedback.
So, when it became clear Albon couldn’t contest the Italian Grand Prix weekend after Friday practice, De Vries was an obvious and available candidate to stand-in.
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It is understood the team were already interested in recruiting him for next year in place of Nicholas Latifi – who is now confirmed to be leaving at the end of the year – and his performance at Monza only served to enhance that interest.
Of his options, Williams is the least competitive. But the team is well-funded through owner Dorilton and have a clear pathway of how to improve through the midfield. It could be the kind of long-term project he fancies getting his teeth into.
He has some time to decide and may well get another chance behind the wheel of the Williams if Albon doesn’t recover in time to race in Singapore.
Option 2: Alpine
De Vries is believed to have tested an old-spec Alpine this week in Hungary in what would have been the fourth different team he’s driven for this year, as he mulls a potential opportunity at what is currently F1’s fourth-best outfit.
Alpine are in need of a driver to partner Esteban Ocon for 2023 after Fernando Alonso headed out the door and rising star Oscar Piastri chose to sign for McLaren.
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They are the most attractive proposition based on current performance and are arguably best-placed to take the fight to the top three – Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. Sign here and he would be fighting for good points regularly.
Alpine are understood to be keen on recruiting him, although there are several drivers in the mix there – including Pierre Gasly, who could be released from his AlphaTauri contract if Red Bull can find a suitable replacement to slot into his current seat.
Option 3: AlphaTauri
With Red Bull’s hopes of bringing Indycar driver Colton Herta to F1 with AlphaTauri all but over following confirmation he does not currently qualify for a super licence, the energy drinks firm have turned their attention to De Vries.
They would expect him to be able to score consistently from the off, providing AlphaTauri give him a car capable of doing so, and his quality is such, Red Bull would see him as a suitable back up at the works team should either Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez was unable to race.
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He’d also provide a great yardstick to evaluate Yuki Tsunoda’s potential, the Japanese driver having been given a third season with the team next year, and a different racer from which Tsunoda can learn from.
De Vries would join a team that offers him a potential route to a Red Bull works drive in the future – and with AlphaTauri able to run more old parts from sister team Red Bull next year as it will be the second year of these sweeping new regulations , the likelihood is that the car will be more competitive.
Option 4: Formula E and World Endurance Championship
As De Vries’ hopes of an F1 break faded earlier this year, he understandably looked at his options in other motorsport categories to get racing.
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It’s believed he has a strong option with a Formula E outfit, which he could dovetail with a competitive seat in the World Endurance Championship.
It’s a very attractive package for any driver, but you could argue as he’s only 27, those opportunities are likely to come up in the future if he were to delay to focus on his F1 dream.