Nyck de Vries is Toto Wolff’s ‘insurance policy’ should Lewis Hamilton decide to quit the sport, according to the Dutchman’s family friend and fellow racer Tom Coronel.
De Vries has never raced in Formula One before – but he has been Mercedes’ test and reserve driver for the past two seasons alongside driving for the German outfit in Formula E. He won the Formula Two championship in 2019 and then claimed victory in last season’s Formula E Championship. He has been regularly linked with a move to backmarkers Williams over the last two seasons and drove for the team in FP1 in Barcelona.
Hamilton is contracted to Mercedes until the end of the 2023 season. However, Mercedes have struggled during the 2022 season with the seven-time world champion sitting just sixth in the Driver’s Championship, 75 points behind Championship leader and bitter rival Max Verstappen. This has led some to speculate that he may decide to leave the sport early.
Speaking to the RacingNews365nl podcast, Coronel said: “If Lewis Hamilton stops, Nyck de Vries will get the seat. Do you know why? As I’ve been saying for a year, Nyck is Toto Wolff’s insurance policy.”
Mercedes were infamously left scrambling to sign a new driver in 2016 after Nico Rosberg announced his retirement from the sport following his championship victory. The Silver Arrows managed to successfully arrange a deal for Valterri Bottas to join from Williams at short notice – but Coronel argues that Wolff has planned contingencies to avoid ever being in the same situation again.
“Of course, he has already experienced it once with Rosberg,” the Dutchman explained. “I don’t want to say he ‘uses’ Nyck, but that’s why he keeps him close to him. This is a boy who is doing everything he should have done. He has won all the championships he should have won.”
De Vries competed in Formula Two alongside some of the most talented drivers on the current grid including Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Lando Norris. Coronel believes this increases his value to Wolff and Mercedes.
“If you look at his track record and if you see what he’s still doing now, Nyck never lacked anything compared to the other drivers. That’s exactly what you get,” Coronel said.
It is unlikely that Hamilton will quit the sport anytime soon as he hopes to help Mercedes turn around their on-track fortunes in a bid to win a record-breaking eighth world title. However, it will be reassuring to Mercedes fans to know there is a plan in place just in case that eventuality ever arises.