Winning the Formula 2 championship usually guarantees you a seat in the following season of Formula 1 – unless your name is Nyck de Vries.
Despite winning the F2 title in 2019 – fending off competition from the likes of Nicholas Latifi and Jack Aitken – de Vries found himself without a route into F1 for 2020.
Instead, the Dutchman ended his 2019 racing in Formula E for Mercedes EQ – where he has remained ever since.
There’s no doubt de Vries is a seriously quick driver; he dominated the opening race of this season’s Formula E in Diriyah and had an impressive junior career, but why hasn’t he made it into F1 yet?
Mick Schumacher, George Russell and Charles Leclerc have all won the F2 championship since it was rebranded from GP2 in 2017. Pierre Gasly can also be added to that list, as the Frenchman won the final season of GP2 in 2016. These are all drivers who found themselves on the F1 grid the following year (although Gasly only completed the final five rounds of the 2017 season.)
Even the likes of Sergey Sirotkin, Lando Norris, Alexander Albon, Yuki Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin have all graduated to F1, without winning the feeder series.
For de Vries, it looks like a case of right place, wrong time. Only two seats opened up in F1 for the 2020 season, with Nico Hulkenberg’s departure from Renault opening the door for a returning Esteban Ocon.
The other seat, which was the only realistic chance for the F2 class of 2019 to graduate, was at Williams – after the team parted ways with Robert Kubica. Unfortunately for de Vries, this was taken by runner-up Latifi, whose father’s company became a major sponsor at Williams.
De Vries himself admitted that a route into F1 was not realistic.
“Over the past five years the champion has been promoted to Formula 1 and last year even to the top three,” he said in 2019.
“However, there are no guarantees, and I was aware of that. I have no control over that, so I can’t worry about it.
“I’ve had several conversations but there just wasn’t enough movement, everyone more or less stayed where they are.
“Of course Formula 1 is still the dream, but in the current situation that was not realistic.”
Despite this frustration, the former F2 winner has managed to get some F1 experience under his belt. De Vries, alongside Formula E teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, is currently employed as a simulator driver at Mercedes, and participated in last year’s young driver test at Abu Dhabi for the German team.
The 26-year-old would have been the quickest driver at the test, if it wasn’t for the participation of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff also refused to rule out de Vries or Vandoorne finding an F1 seat in the future.
“I believe that if the time would have been right and the opportunity would have arisen, they would have deserved to be in a Formula 1 car and I think they would have done well,” Wolff told Autosport last year.
“I think both of them deserve to be in a Formula 1 car as well as in a Formula E car – and both of them will be associated with the Mercedes family. Both of them will be having roles within the F1 team, albeit as simulator driver or some kind of other function.
“And never say never (about a future in F1) – I would say that for both of them.”
Currently de Vries seems happy racing in Formula E for the time being, despite his dream laying in F1.
“It’s a great opportunity and I think it’s the right direction for me to take at this stage of my career,” said de Vries in a 2019 interview.
“Obviously I cannot really look too far ahead because things in this world change quickly and anyway it’s hard to look three-five years ahead because we just simply don’t know how the world will look at that stage.
“But at the moment, I’m very happy with this opportunity and looking forward to new challenges ahead.”
De Vries will return to action next month, for the third round of the 2020-21 Formula E season in Rome.
Image Credit: @nyckdevries twitter
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