Williams’ Nyck de Vries made an excellent first impression with Williams as he out-qualified Nicholas Latifi at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix.
The Dutchman initially started the weekend by contesting the first practice session with Aston Martin, and he ended up P19, only just over a second adrift of team-mate Lance Stroll.
That was it for his involvement; he would go back to his duties as Mercedes reserve driver and take in the sights and sounds of the garage once more alongside team principal, Toto Wolff. Or so we thought.
Alex Albon fell ill overnight, so he needed to be assessed ahead of the third practice session in the midst of a weekend he was expected to perform well in.
The Thai-British driver made it into the top 10 during the second free practice session, but after a check-up with the doctor, he discovered that he had appendicitis, heart-wrenchingly ruling him out of the weekend.
Williams reserve driver, Logan Sargeant, is busy with Formula 2 commitments this weekend, so up stepped the former Formula E champion.
At 27 years of age, having won the Formula 2 Championship and been part of the McLaren Young Drivers’ Programme earlier in his career, de Vries finally had his shot.
And, so far, he has taken it brilliantly. The former Mercedes EQ driver finished 14th in FP3 on Saturday morning, just a tenth of a second adrift of Nicholas Latifi in the other car.
De Vries only found out about 90 minutes before that session that he would be in the Williams – he was in a hospitality suite having a coffee when he found out.
In that time, he had to hurriedly go through some warm-ups, put a Williams race suit on and brief with the engineers at the British team.
Driving a new car in a championship session perhaps needs a fair amount of time to prepare for, but in just just over an hour, de Vries was ready.
In qualifying, the impressive performance continued as he made it into the second session while his Canadian team-mate was eliminated, although it should be said that the Canadian did have some brake issues. Nonetheless, this was turning into a superb day for the Mercedes reserve.
In P12, he had a chance of progressing to the top 10, but he made a slight mistake at the Roggia Chicane on his final run, bringing his afternoon to a close after a mighty effort.
Due to a host of penalties, de Vries will start in the top 10 in Monza on Sunday, so if he is to replace Latifi when his contract runs out at the end of the year, this weekend will go a long way towards justifying that decision from Williams.
“Certainly not,” de Vries told Sky Sports when asked if he was expecting his weekend to pan out like this.
“When I received the call, I was actually up in the paddock club for an appearance, I was literally drinking cappuccino, and chilling and waiting.
“And then obviously yeah, I received the call from Mercedes, who asked me to come down ASAP and then I was forwarded to Williams.
“So, exciting times, obviously I feel very sorry for Alex and I hope that he is okay and wishing him a speedy recovery.
“But, for me, it is obviously a very unique opportunity, very last minute, only one-and-a-half hours prior to FP3.
“And that’s such limited time to get ready, you only have two sets in FP3 to get ready, hence why I’m not entirely satisfied.
“Because I think our session wasn’t quite as smooth as I would have liked, and we made some mistakes, and it wasn’t perfect.
“But nevertheless, I think I can also be quite satisfied with what we did.”