AlphaTauri team principal, Franz Tost, has affirmed that Max Verstappen was not the determining factor in the team’s decision to sign Nyck de Vries.
The Dutchman won the 2019 Formula 2 title, but there were no Formula 1 seats available to him for 2020, so he was forced to look elsewhere.
His adventures took him to Formula E, where he won the 2021 title with Mercedes, before the German team withdrew from the series at the end of season eight.
De Vries’ future all looked a little uncertain from there, but his opportunity in F1 finally arose when Alex Albon fell ill in Italy.
With a bout of appendicitis having hit the Thai-Briton, he was unable to race, so de Vries, who had been practicing with Aston Martin that weekend, was called up as his replacement.
The 27-year-old had some familiarity with the Williams car having driven it at the Spanish Grand Prix, but he had not yet completed any laps in anger, so being thrown into one practice session before qualifying was some ask.
But he took to the challenge like a duck to water, qualifying an immense 13th before being bumped up to eighth on the grid as a result of a series of penalties around him.
He finished ninth, while team-mate, Nicholas Latifi, ended up outside the points in 15th, ultimately putting the final nail in the coffin of the Canadian’s F1 career.
Since then, de Vries has tested with Alpine, and was involved in talks with Williams, but the French side were set on signing Pierre Gasly.
Red Bull were happy to let the 26-year-old go, but they needed a replacement, and they found one in de Vries.
Verstappen, a compatriot to de Vries, knows him well, and he made sure to put in a good word to Dr Helmut Marko, who runs the driver programme at Red Bull.
And so it came to be that de Vries and Yuki Tsunoda will form one of the shortest driver pairings F1 has ever seen, but it is the Uitwellingerga-born driver’s talent that has landed him this opportunity, not his contact list.
“No, this was not necessary, the right foot from Nyck put in the argument,” explained Tost.
Simply, the Red Bull junior team has signed de Vries “because he’s fast,” and after watching him win eight karting titles in the space of four years, Tost has always known of the ability de Vries possesses.
“I know his history. I saw him in karting, he won, I think it was 2010 and ’11, the European and the World Championship in karting, and then he was really successful in all the categories where he raced,” explained the Austrian.
“He won in Formula Renault, he won in GP3, he won in Formula 2 and also he won the Formula E World Championship, and therefore I think he is a very high-skilled driver and he deserves to be in Formula 1.
“We are really looking forward to having him in our car.”
De Vries’ outstanding stand-in performance in Monza made him an “easy” pick to replace the Alpine-bound Gasly.
“This had a great influence because it showed his potential, he drove a fantastic race, did not make any mistakes. And therefore it was an easy decision to take him,” stated Tost.
De Vries is currently a test and reserve driver for Mercedes, so getting the Dutchman in the car before the end of the season is going to be a struggle.
“I don’t think so because he still has a contract with another team, I hope we can see him in Abu Dhabi in the Young Driver Test,” added Tost.
Williams and Haas are now the only teams yet to finalise their plans for next season, with Latifi leaving the British side at the end of the season, and no replacement selected yet.
Formula 2 driver, Logan Sargeant, is currently looking like a leading contender, while Mick Schumacher is thought to be in a battle with Nico Hulkenberg to retain his drive at Haas.