How the 2022 season played out: F1i's Top 10 Moments

Albon's appendix makes a star out of Williams' super-sub in Monza

When he won the 2019 Formula 2 championship, Dutch driver Nyck de Vries had every reason to think that he was within touching distance of making it onto the Formula 1 starting grid. But it never happened. As part of the Mercedes programme, he was stuck in a logjam of talented drivers waiting for their big break with the Silver Arrows, one that for most of them never came.

Even when he claimed the Formula E world championship in 2021 with Mercedes-EQ, still no doors opened for him in F1. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were now firmly installed at Brackley, and other teams were simply not looking to take on a long-time Mercedes protege. Aware that at 27 his window of opportunity was already closing, de Vries decided to spend as much time in the F1 paddock as possible in 2022 with FP1 appearances for Williams, Aston Martin and Mercedes itself.

And then on the morning of Saturday September 10, while having a relaxed cappuccino after his latest practice outing, de Vries' phone rang summoning him to the Williams trailer as soon as possible - if not sooner. Regular driver Alex Albon had been rushed to hospital and was undergoing an emergency appendectomy, meaning de Vries had just hours to wrap his head around the prospect of making his long waited F1 debut. Of course, no one could expect all that much from someone being thrown into the deep end like that: certainly not eighth place in qualifying, followed by a points finish in a perfectly executed race on Sunday. Oh, wait: that really happened, didn't it?

It's a good job Albon was still watching the race from hospital while on large quantities of post-surgical painkillers, because otherwise that would have really hurt. But it certainly transformed de Vries' career on the spot. All those teams that hadn't shown the slightest interest in de Vries before this were suddenly clamouring to get his signature on a contract. Williams looked the obvious destination but in fact it was AlphaTauri that won the race to snap him up for 2023. That in turn triggered the release of Pierre Gasly, who was now free to move to Alpine in place of Fernando Alonso. The game of musical chairs that had started just before the summer break had finally been completed, with one big loser - Daniel Ricciardo.