Lewis Hamilton sat out of the first practice session of the day on Friday to give reserve Nyck de Vries the chance to take an F1 car for a spin, but the Dutchman’s future with Mercedes looks uncertain.
Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes are unlikely to make room for reserve driver Nyck de Vries in their driver lineup any time soon.
The 27-year-old is a Mercedes driver but has never been given the chance to race in Formula 1. Instead, since graduating from feeder series F2, he has been competing for the Silver Arrows’ sister team in Formula E and won the title in 2021.
He does have some F1 experience, having tested in the past before taking part in a practice session with Williams earlier this season. He stood in for Lewis Hamilton during FP1 on Friday to help Mercedes prepare for this weekend’s French Grand Prix.
Team boss Wolff was full of praise for the job de Vries did in the seven-time world champion’s stead. “Today was very, very good,” said the Austrian, as the Dutchman went ninth fastest in the session with a best time half-a-second off what George Russell managed in the other W13.
A new rule for this season gave de Vries the opportunity, with teams now required to give younger drivers a chance in two FP1 sessions per year. Instead of being in the cockpit of his car, Hamilton was in the garage helping to guide his replacement through his work.
TV cameras showed the rather strange sight of the Brit wearing headphones and examining data on the large screens instead of being out on track. “It was interesting because he was coaching Nick, he was helping him with the overlays and it was quite interesting to see,” said Wolff.
But despite plenty of positive feedback for de Vries about the way he went about his work in that session, Wolff admitted he is not likely to earn a seat in F1 with Mercedes. Hamilton will stick with the team until at least the end of next year, while Russell is tied down to a long-term deal.
“I think if we’re not able to provide him with an interesting Formula 1 project, we need to let him go,” admitted the Mercedes chief. “He’s looking at the various options, sports cars and then maybe Formula E. But you must never give up on the opportunity that one day a Formula 1 door can open.
“We can’t really tell any team to look at him and consider him, because that would be felt like an interference, and that goes the contrary way.” That final comment was telling, considering de Vries looked set to race for Williams this season until Red Bull stepped in and struck a deal to put Alexander Albon into that seat.