Mercedes boss eager to see how potential Lewis Hamilton replacement performs

Nyck de Vries will replace Sir Lewis Hamilton in FP1 on Friday at the French Grand Prix.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is keen to see how Nyck de Vries gets on when he is given his first official outing with the team during the first practice session at the French Grand Prix.

Each team is required to give a practice session to a rookie or development driver on at least two occasions this season as part of Formula 1’s initiative to promote young talent and ensure the future of the sport.

De Vries will partner George Russell on Friday at Paul Ricard having already completed FP1 in Barcelona with Williams, out-pacing Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Wolff confirmed that it will be Sir Lewis Hamilton who steps aside to give the 27-year-old a go.

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“Nyck is replacing Lewis in first practice this weekend as part of the allocated sessions for young drivers this year,” he said.

“So, we’re looking forward to seeing how he gets on.”

Hamilton grabbed his third consecutive podium of the season last time out in Austria when he finished third behind race winner Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Russell recovered to fourth that afternoon after recovering from contact with Sergio Perez that saw him receive damage as well as a penalty.

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All of that transpired after both Britons crashed during qualifying ahead of the sprint race, so it was a solid day for the German side.

“Third and fourth in Austria was a satisfying result for the whole team, particularly given the position we were in on Friday evening,” explained Wolff.

“The team worked miracles to have two complete race cars ready for the Sprint and Grand Prix. 27 points on Sunday were a good reward for that effort.

“We scored three podiums in the first seven races, and we have now achieved four in the last four. I’m pleased with the momentum we are building, and it reflects the mammoth effort of the team.

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“Our understanding of the W13 is growing with every lap and it’s encouraging to see that reflected in our development and results.

“While we were quicker in Austria, we still weren’t quick enough to challenge at the front. We need to keep chasing those final few tenths and bringing new developments to the cars, including this weekend in France.”

Wolff is hoping that the powerful nature of the Circuit Paul Ricard, coupled with the smooth track surface and less undulation than in Styria, can help his team towards the front.

“Paul Ricard is a very different track and challenge,” he added.

“It has smooth tarmac and a wide range of corner types, along with long straights. The aim will be to make further inroads on the gap to the front and hopefully be back on the podium.”

Mercedes remain third in the Constructors’ Standings heading into round 12 this weekend, 122 points adrift of leaders Red Bull.