Mercedes’ George Russell has offered his congratulations to Nyck de Vries for the way he performed during the Italian Grand Prix last weekend.
De Vries had taken part in a practice session with the British team at the Spanish Grand Prix in May, before Sir Lewis Hamilton stepped aside for the Dutchman in FP1 in France.
Sebastian Vettel swapped out for the 2019 Formula 2 champion in Monza on Friday, but de Vries’ work was not done there.
On Saturday morning, while he was enjoying a coffee, he got a call from Mercedes telling him to head to Williams and take Alex Albon’s place for FP3.
The Thai-Briton had fallen ill with appendicitis, for which he has now had surgery and recovered despite some complications.
The 27-year-old was called in as a replacement, as he out-performed Nicholas Latifi in qualifying, making it through to Q2 as the Canadian was dumped out in Q1.
The former Formula E champion looked as though he had a shot of making it into the top 10 shootout, but he was denied when he accidentally put the brake bias into the wrong setting on a steering wheel he was not used to.
It was, nonetheless, a sublime effort from the Mercedes reserve driver, who would start eighth due to grid penalties, before coming home to finish an outstanding ninth.
Russell made a one-off appearance with Mercedes in 2020 when Hamilton came down with COVID-19, and he had out-paced team-mate Valtteri Bottas for much of the evening before a botched pit stop and a slow puncture denied him the win.
The 24-year-old reckons it was harder for de Vries as, unlike Russell’s call-up while he was already at Williams, the former Mercedes EQ driver was not on the grid.
“I think it was probably tougher for him to be honest than it was for me because I was obviously a full-time race driver,” explained Russell in the post-race press conference.
“Equally as well for him jumping from Aston Martin on Friday into a Williams, it’s a different car and the seating positions are different.
“I remember when I was doing testing with Mercedes and Force India, and driving in F2, it took quite a few laps to get used to a different feeling of how those cars reacted.
“To score points on your debut in a Williams is pretty spectacular no doubt.”
De Vries’ result lifts him up to 20th in the championship, ahead of Latifi, whose future next year is now under even more scrutiny.