Nyck de Vries scored points on his debut in the Italian Grand Prix and escaped punishment for driving erratically behind the safety car.
The Williams stand-in was only called up to replace Alex Albon on Saturday morning after the latter came down with appendicitis but produced a stunning performance to reach Q2 and then finish ninth after a race-long battle for points. However, an investigation after the race threatened to ruin his fairytale, as de Vries was summoned for braking unexpectedly in front of Zhou Guanyu when behind the safety car, but he was only reprimanded as the stewards took into account his status as a late replacement.
“The driver advised that after the second lap under the safety car he was unsure about why his display was showing that he was at risk of being under the delta time,” the stewards’ statement said. “At the same time, he was dealing with brake issues and was in radio contact with the team over this issue, so did not get any advice from the team in relation to his delta. He therefore reduced speed in order to remain above the delta time.
“The Stewards took note of the fact that the driver was a ‘last minute’ replacement for the usual team driver and had driven this car for the first time in FP3 at this event. Therefore, in mitigation the Stewards decide to impose the penalty of a Reprimand instead of a higher penalty.”
De Vries admits the final result of ninth place on his debut was a special one, saying the fact he didn’t lose a place at the start allowed him to settle into the race and hold position.
“The whole of the last 24 hours have just been a dream,” de Vries said. “I didn’t really have much time to think because everything was so rushed. I had a very bad sleep — it went from excitement into nerves and I didn’t dare even look into my sleep tracking, because basically I spent the whole night awake. But perhaps it helped me — I couldn’t think and I just had to get on with the job.
“My start wasn’t great but it was enough to maintain position, and I think it was key for me to get into a rhythm in the beginning and not lose position (because) then your tires are dirty and you’re always on the back foot. That’s why I was really happy with our strategy and how we managed that.
“Actually, the pace was really good — the car was great and we made a small adjustment from stint one to stint two. I asked a lot of help from the team to use the tools in the car to influence the balance. Again, I know that we had a little bit of help from outside with grid penalties and all that. But hey, no one take these points away from us.”