Hamilton hoping driver tipped to replace Latifi doesn’t get ‘judged’ on FP1 performance

Nyck de Vries and Juri Vips were both used during Free Practice 1 at the Spanish GP.

George Russell has spoken out in support of junior drivers after two of them were used during FP1 at the Spanish Grand Prix.

For 2022, the FIA introduced a brand new rule regarding teams’ use of young drivers during the season.

It was announced that all teams must use a junior driver in FP1 twice during the year, with only drivers who have taken part in two or less Formula 1 races counting.

With this in mind, Red Bull Racing and Williams Racing used their first of two junior driver slots.

Juri Vips replaced Sergio Pérez in FP1, whilst Formula E World Champion Nyck de Vries replaced Alex Albon.

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De Vries is of course Mercedes’ reserve driver, and has spent much time with Russell in the past.

Following the Dutchman’s FP1 outing, Russell explained how “useful” De Vries is to him.

“Nyck’s been very useful for me personally at the races,” Russell said.

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“He’s always watching the on-board videos and looking at the data and telling me to look at this, that or the other if he notices anything.

“So having someone like Nyck, who is pretty on it – he’s got his head screwed on and he knows what he’s talking about – has been beneficial for us as a team.”

De Vries is more than deserving of a permanent seat in the championship, and has even been rumoured as a potential replacement for Nicholas Latifi, should the Canadian be sacked mid-season.

The Formula E driver performed well during FP1 in Spain, ending the session ahead of Latifi.

Williams Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson sung the Dutchman’s praises after the session.

“He got on extremely well,” said Robson.

“His programme was the engineering programme Alex [Albon] would have done had he been in the car. He executed it really well. The way we set the tests up, his car was the baseline for the new components that were on Nicholas Latifi’s car. He did exactly what we needed him to do.”

Under the new rule, the same driver doesn’t have to be used for both of the sessions.

For their second session later in the year, Williams are set to use Roy Nissany, who is the team’s test driver and races in Formula 2.

This means the British side won’t use De Vries in FP1 again this year, something Robson announced.

“No, not at the moment,” he said. 

“So that was his opportunity in FP1, one of the two FP1 sessions we have to give up by regulation to a young driver. That was his one go.”

Whilst the new rule has good intentions to allow young drivers more seat time in the pinnacle of motorsport, Russell is firmly against it.

The British driver himself, took part in two FP1 sessions in 2017 with Force India, giving the Mercedes driver a good understanding of the pressure the sessions put on junior drivers shoulders.

“I think, slightly counter-intuitively, I personally don’t think it’s correct to be getting drivers in for FP1 to showcase what they can do in front of the world in 60 minutes, in 10 laps in a car they have barely driven, and be judged off this,” Russell told the media in Spain.

“And this is speaking from my own experience of the number of FP1 sessions. You know the pressure will be immense – now we are putting even more pressure on these guys to go out there and try and prove them[selves]. They will always be judged on how they get on.

“But that’s just the way the game is at the moment.”

Lewis Hamilton spoke in full support of Russell’s comments; the seven-time World Champion believes that junior drivers shouldn’t be “judged” on a single FP1 outing.

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“You look sometimes further down the order that they just send a driver out on light fuel and it’s not a lot of laps, maybe 20 or so laps, it’s a lot of pressure,” he said.

“It can be a fun opportunity but I don’t think they should be judged on that, for sure. But Nyck, I don’t think he’ll be judged on it. I think it’s more for him to get a good feel.

“Hopefully, his feeling can have a bigger impact on simulation tools, but he’s an integral part of our team and works closely with us all in the background,” he added.