‘Niki would have taken his hat off’ for De Vries’ Italian GP debut – Wolff

2022 Italian Grand Prix

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Three-times Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda would have approved of Nyck de Vries’ debut performance last weekend, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said.

Wolff said Lauda, who was a director at Mercedes prior to his death in 2019, would have doffed his trademark cap at De Vries’ efforts, which yielded a ninth place finish, equalling his Williams team’s best result of the season so far.

De Vries joined Mercedes’ Formula E team after winning the Formula 2 championship in 2019. He became FE world champion with the team last year and made three practice appearances for Mercedes and other teams in F1 this year before being handed the unexpected opportunity to substitute for Alexander Albon at Monza.

After out-qualifying the team’s regular driver Nicholas Latifi on Saturday, De Vries delivered Williams’ fourth points finish of the season in the race. He resisted pressure from Zhou Guanyu despite growing pain in his arms at the end of the race.

Wolff was full of praise for the newcomer’s efforts after yesterday’s race. “I like him,” he said. “He’s just a good young man.

“He’s not only fast, as he’s shown in the junior categories, but he’s also intelligent and a good team player. And that’s why he deserved it today.

“I don’t think that anyone else could have possibly done a better job than what he did. You’re in an Aston Martin you were driving around with a rake and then you were being drafted in last minute in a different car, you’re beating your team mate by quite a margin, starting eighth and you’re finishing ninth. Niki would have taken his hat off as a driver.”

A spate of grid penalties meant De Vries shared the fourth row of the grid with fellow Dutch driver and eventual race winner Max Verstappen, who is three years younger than him. Verstappen said his “great friend” had done an impressive job on his debut.

Niki Lauda, Monaco, 2018
Lauda ‘won have taken his hat off’ for De Vries, said Wolff
“I saw him battling in front of me when he was defending 10th at the time,” said Verstappen. “For Nyck to jump in and deliver this performance, it’s definitely not easy at all. I think he did a great job from the things I saw.

“In terms of defending he just kept his cool, didn’t make mistakes and I’m very happy for him to score the points. It’s impressive, of course, in your first race.”

George Russell, who was one of De Vries’ rivals during their karting careers, said he did an “excellent job” at Monza.

“He was always one of the very best and there’s no doubt he’d deserve another place in Formula 1. So that’s just how the sport is. Sometimes there’s 20 drivers, not everybody gets an opportunity but certainly now he’s proved everything he has to.”

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2022 Italian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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18 comments on “‘Niki would have taken his hat off’ for De Vries’ Italian GP debut – Wolff”

  1. Nice to see so much “love” for De Vries! If only F1 were more about meritocracy and we could really get the best drivers in all the cars, eh.

    Nyck does have a shot at that Williams seat, and this weekend is certain to have helped boost his profile. So let us hope he does get a shot. But there will still by many who “deserve” it who won’t get a shot even though they might well be better than some of the guys in the cars.

  2. what Nyck done was good but lets not go overboard the hype is becoming nauseating? I never heard any hype when underrated Kamui Kobayoshi Finished 9th in is debut towards at the end of the 2009 season for Toyota and was fighting with Buttons brawn at the next race when he finished 6th..

    Williams have built a solid top ten car on merit and a 27 year old driver with 1000s hours of single seat experience plus free practice and sim work who maximised the cars potential is what you expect in the pinnacle of motorsport..

    Its bizarre in this “everyone’s a winner” era of F1 we are conditioned to accepting mediocre drivers under performing like stroll, latifi etc by their teams PR department and Liberty media in attempt to promote the sport.. and everyone is suddenly shocked when real talents like Nyck are given a seat and deliver.
    Astroturfing hype is out of control imo, why is pay driver zhou who has not done anything of note in his debut season declared great when drivers like Shinji Nakano finished constant top 10 when his car did not explode but F1 community dismissed him like he was invisible.

    This is my main problem with modern “EVERYONES A WINNER” liberty media F1 ownership where finishing a race is the greatest accomplishment ever(!) yes Nyck had a good debut but Williams should be ashamed of themselves for shamelessly taking on talentless but rich (albon-Thai red bull funding , Latifi- billionaire daddy) pay drivers who cannot maximize the cars full potential in the first place.

    If anything Nyck proves how much of a seat blocker rolling chicane latifi is and exposes albon for not maximizing all of the opportunities he has been given in F1.
    Albon would like his father make a great tin top driver and be perfect for WEC hypercars due to his consistent pace but he isn’t F1 material as he does not get 100% out of a car, Latifi doesn’t need to be explained because he is a living meme.

    TL:DR Williams should boot albon and latifi and put Felipe Drugovich in the car to partner nick for 2023. Drugo is F2 champ and proven talent plus he brings big Brazilian sponsors.

    1. Terence Blumenthal
      12th September 2022, 19:41

      Great post, you might be on to something.

    2. You make a couple of good points there (in your own way)

      I think it’s an accomplishment that merits a bunch of articles and a lot of praise if you think about the complexity of modern f1 cars and their speed. These are still some of the fastest cars to ever race, all the while having submenus on the rotary switches.

      But yeah, the “incredible potentional” of Zhou, the “safe pair of hands” of Latifi, and the “next Senna” of Tsunoda… We don’t have the adequate tools to really gauge their performance most of the time, and so we get used to those pr claims, but cases like this really do expose it. Unless Nyck comes in for a few more races and struggles against Albon (or Latifi). That’d be a real ding in this theory.

    3. Really? I vividly remember the fanfare about Kobayashi’s debut. It was a great drive and effectively secured his spot on the grid for 2010. Perhaps the difference 13 years later is more and better reporting on this site due its expansion.

  3. Albon’s been quietly impressive in that Williams, it’s a shame we never got to see what he could do with it in Monza given it seemed to have genuine pace. Equally seeing Williams driven by De Vries and Albon pushing each other would be a very strong line-up. If they retain Latifi there’s no hope for them.

    1. Yep my thoughts exactly. I’m 99.9% sure Latifi is gone next year. I like the guy, but he’s consistently not fast enough.

    2. Agree 100%. I think the only question is how much money does Latifi bring in and can they offset that with any money that Nyck brings with him?

      1. I’m not sure if Nyck does bring sponsorship with him if he went to Williams, all though Mercedes might give Williams an engine discount.

  4. What’s most impressive about his P9 was that it was a result of genuine speed and skill rather than mostly luck.
    The ‘luck’ of having 3 top team drivers start behind him was gone by race-end (when they were all ahead).

    I don’t think Nyck is the next (or ‘previous’ as he is older) Verstappen or even Norris/Leclerc/Russell. But I now think (didn’t believe so before) he can measure up against the Ocon/Gassly/Albon’s on the grid; maybe even Sainz.

    1. You forgot about Alonso and Ricciardo

      1. I only picked the younger drivers with a couple of years experience.

  5. Nyck is the rising star but my question is – did they borrow shirts from Ferrari for that shot?

  6. I was trying to remember who the last driver was to get into the points in his maiden F1 race and it turned out to be Zhou in the first race of this season, and before that, Tsunoda at the first race of last season, so perhaps not as rare as I thought. If you discount the very first GP, (where obviously everyone who scored points did so in their first GP), and the first Indianapolis race (which counted as F1 but only had US drivers), then the only person to have won a race on debut is Giancarlo Baghetti who won the 1961 French GP at Reims, driving a Ferrari. That is made more impressive when you consider that there were 54 entrants for that race, four of them driving Ferraris. The others on the podium that day were Dan Gurney and Jim Clark.

    1. Also interesting is that Baghetti was driving a privately-entered Ferrari, so while the win does technically count for Ferrari the constructor, it doesn’t count for Scuderia Ferrari SpA.

      1. Thank you wsrgo, I was puzzled by that. In the reports I found he was driving the same chassis, engine, etc as the official Ferraris, the iconic sharknose, but didn’t seem to be part of the Ferrari team. In the photos I was able to find, it looks like he has some gold embelishments on the nose livery which I couldn’t see on the other Ferraris.

  7. One race doesn’t mean nothing. Probably the easiest track to drive. You can even win in medium car if you’re lucky, ask Vettel, Gasly or Ricciardo.

  8. When I read the headline, I thought the Niki in question was Latifi and I was doubtful he’d be doing that.

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