Nyck de Vries went from having a relaxing coffee to making his competitive debut in Formula 1 on Saturday, but a steering wheel error costing him his best lap as he earned a top-10 grid slot at the Italian Grand Prix.
The former Formula E and Formula 2 champion had driven for Aston Martin in FP1 at Monza, but was carrying out marketing duties when he got the call-up to replace Alex Albon, after the Williams driver was ruled out with appendicitis. De Vries says he was surprised by the call and didn’t have a clean qualifying session but was happy with how he handled the situation.
“Certainly not (expected), and when I received the call I was actually up in Paddock Club for an appearance, literally drinking a cappuccino and chilling and waiting!” de Vries told Sky Sports. “Then I received the call from Mercedes which asked me to come down ASAP and then I was forward to Williams. So, exciting times.
“Obviously I feel very sorry for Alex and I hope that he is OK and (am) wishing him a speedy recovery, but for me obviously it’s a unique opportunity. Very last-minute — only one and a half hours before FP3 — and there’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; it wasn’t perfect. But nevertheless I think I can also be quite satisfied with what we did.”
De Vries made his way through to the second part of qualifying, where he admits it was unfamiliarity with the steering wheel that led to him making a mistake on his final Q2 run, as he looked to be in with a shot at getting into Q3 on his debut.
“Actually how I lost my last run in Q2, it was Nicholas (Latifi)’s wheel because that is closer, but I was used to Alex’s switches and I hit something and the brake balance moved 1.5 percent rearwards — that’s why I locked up the rears going into Turn 4. So these mistakes weren’t great, and on the first run of Q2 we made a small change, we were also in traffic and the tire temps were a bit low, so not everything quite together, but I think it was not bad after all.”