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de Vries: A conversation with the Formula 2 champion

Nyck de Vries has had somewhat of a validating 2019. After finishing fourth in the Formula 2 standings in 2018 behind George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon – all drivers that have now found their way into Formula One, the money was on de Vries to be a serious contender for glory in his third season of the highest feeder series. And he succeeded.

But with limited openings in F1, de Vries has made the leap into Formula E, partnering Stoffel Vandoorne at the newly formed Mercedes programme that are making their maiden voyage into the all-electric series for the upcoming 2019/20 season.

We caught up with the Dutch superstar in Frankfurt a few weeks ago for the launch of the Mercedes EQ Silver Arrow 01, where the now newly crowned Formula 2 champion outlines his plans for himself and the team ahead of the opening round of the season in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in just under two months time.

“It’s quite a special day for me. It’s been quite a tough couple of weeks, with a lot happening with what happened in Spa, but with this announcement and everything coming together, as well as in Formula 2 trying to win a championship. So many different feelings, but today above all I’m happy and proud to be a Mercedes driver,” explained de Vries as he discusses the hurdles he’s overcome in recent weeks leading up to the announcement.

When asked about what skills he can use from his three years experience in Formula 2, de Vries explained how he aims to become a more complete driver in Formula E, as well as experiencing LMP2 machinery at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year.

“I think everything we do contributes to becoming a more complete racing driver. Obviously I’ve been racing cars for some time now, and I’ve been participating in WEC and I did Le Mans, so I think everything contributes to me becoming a better driver, and this will definitely be a big part of it.

“I think the basis of racing will always remain the same, but I have to admit that this is a different series with lots of different challenges. But I’m very much looking forward to it and hopefully we can all make it a successful story,” said de Vries.

When asked about his prospects for the upcoming season as well as what the Mercedes team can achieve, de Vries remained cautiously optimistic in his response.

“Obviously as a team we want to be as competitive as possible from the start of the season, and that’s what we’re pushing for. However at the moment it’s hard to predict where we are versus our opponents because we haven’t had the chance to test ourselves yet against them.

For me personally, both me and the team are new to the championship so they’ll be a lot to learn from both sides, and I just hope we’ll be fighting up front as soon as possible,” reiterated de Vries.

There’s also the added dynamic of having a team mate that de Vries is very familiar with. Having raced with Vandoorne back in Formula Renault 2.0, the reigning F2 champion is relishing the prospect of reuniting with his good friend.

“We’ve known each other a long time, since karting actually, and he speaks Flemish and I speak Dutch so thats handy. We’ve raced each other in Formula Renault too, so we both went through a similar career path at McLaren, so we certainly know each other well and we have a good working relationship.”

Finally, we got an insight into the psyche of a driver in the midst of championship battle. When asked about the current defence of his championship lead in Formula 2, de Vries stated that being “race-fit” won’t have much of an advantage, as the mainstays on the Formula E roster have been testing extensively during the summer break.

“I’m very sure that most of the drivers did more testing than I did. I don’t really look at it that way, but at the moment we still have one priority and that is to finish the job in Formula 2 and then I can close that chapter and open up the new one and really put all my time, focus and energy on this. But I’m sure the team will do everything they can to support me and to be fully ready in Riyadh,” explained de Vries.

In de Vries’ case, Formula One’s loss is Formula E’s gain, and the Dutch superstar is proving to the world of motorsport that the all-electric series is becoming a genuinely serious career option for any driver looking to win a World Championship.

With the combination of de Vries, Vandoorne and Mercedes, this team could very well take the world by storm when Formula E roars into life on 22 November in Riyadh.