Racing driver Tom Coronel believes that Toto Wolff will have an ideal replacement in reserve driver Nyck de Vries should Sir Lewis Hamilton leave Formula 1 in the coming years.
De Vries won eight races in three years with a combination Rapax, Prema and ART, winning the title in 2019.
The Dutchman had previously been a hugely promising member of the McLaren young drivers’ programme but, for one reason or another, never got his chance to truly show what he was capable of in F1.
He moved on to Formula E with the Mercedes EQ Formula E team in 2020, and won the 2021 championship, but has struggled slightly more this season, winning two races in Diriyah and Berlin. He crashed out of this weekend’s Jakarta ePrix after contact with Andre Lotterer.
Mercedes EQ will become McLaren at the end of this season in the all-electric series, so there is no guarantee that there will still be a place for the 27-year-old going into next season, but he does have options.
He still competes in the World Endurance Championship [WEC] with Toyota Gazoo, and a spot in IndyCar might well open up with Meyer Shank following a successful test with them a few months back.
Alternatively, and what he surely craves more than anything else, he may end up in the pinnacle of motorsport, and Coronel believes he would be the ideal fit alongside George Russell.
“If Lewis Hamilton stops, Nyck de Vries will get the seat. Do you know why? As I’ve been saying for a year, Nyck is Toto Wolff’s insurance policy,” he told the RacingNews365.nl podcast.
The Dutchman indicates that Wolff always had Valtteri Bottas up his sleeve when the Finn drove for Williams, and was promoted to Mercedes when Nico Rosberg retired in 2016.
“Of course, he has already experienced it once with Rosberg,” stated Coronel.
“I don’t want to say he ‘uses’ Nyck, but that’s why he keeps him close to him. This is a boy who is doing everything he should have done. He has won all the championships he should have won.”
Having impressed in his career so far, and having performed exceptionally well in FP1 for Williams in Barcelona, Coronel affirms that Mercedes would have a very slid racing driver on their hands.
“If you look at his track record and if you see what he’s still doing now, Nyck never lacked anything compared to the other drivers. That’s exactly what you get,” he explained.
As for de Vries’ involvement with Mercedes, Russell sees him as a very “useful” asset that helps him refine his driving style and gain a better understanding of the W13.
“Nyck’s been very useful for me personally at the races,” he said.
“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.”
However, the 24-year-old indicated that it is not “correct” to give junior drivers only an hour, as per the regulations this year, to show what they can do in an F1 car, and Hamilton agreed with that assessment, affirming that it puts excessive pressure on them.
“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,” added the seven-time champion.
“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.”
It would appear incredibly unlikely that Hamilton will be going anywhere any time soon, as he is desperate to help his Mercedes team get back to championship-winning form.
And there is no doubt that he believes he can still add an eighth world title to his tally, otherwise he would simply have left at the end of last year’s heart-breaking and controversial defeat to Max Verstappen.
Regarding de Vries’ future, intrigue surrounds the future of both his and Mercedes team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne’s careers, as they may well end looking for alternative employment when McLaren completes its takeover of the Formula E team.