Russell glad to see 'stars align' for old rival de Vries

Nyck de Vries (NLD) Williams Racing FW44 Reserve Driver on the grid. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race
© XPB 

Mercedes driver George Russell says he is pleased for his old rival Nyck de Vries, who will finally get his full-time break in Formula 1 with the AlphaTauri team next season.

The pair first met up while karting, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. But they didn't compete against each other at the time, as de Vries was three years older than Russell.

But it was very different when they went head to head in the 2018 Formula 2 championship, which Russell ended up winning in his rookie campaign having won the GP3 championship the previous year.

De Vries ended up in fourth place behind Russell, Lando Norris and Alex Albon in what proved to be a golden year for future F1 talent. De Vries stayed on in F2 and took the title himself the following year ahead of Nicholas Latifi.

But while Russell, Norris, Albon and even Latifi all powered into F1, de Vries was left without a way in and ended up transferring to Formula E, where he claimed the championship with Mercedes-EQ in 2021.

Even so, it looked like de Vries had missed his chance of breaking into F1 despite making practice appearances for Mercedes, Aston Martin and Williams. And then came the case of 'Albon and the acute attack of appendicitis' at Monza.

De Vries jumped in to replace Albon at the last minute and went on to finish the Italian GP in the top ten. Suddenly the doors that had been slammed shut were thrown open, and AlphaTauri won the race for his signature for next year.

Race 2, George Russell (GBR) ART Grand Prix race winner and 3rd place Nyck De Vries (HOL) PERTAMINA PREMA Theodore Racing 29.04.2018. FIA Formula 2 Championship, Rd 2, Baku, Azerbaijan, Sunday

And about time too, was the reaction from Russell, who made his own bow in the 2019 Australian Grand Prix with Williams and who has now lined up for 78 race starts.

“Out of the karting boys, Nyck was the only one who hadn’t made it to F1 who probably deserved to make it to F1," Russell told

"Those five drivers - between myself, Alex, Max, Charles, and Nyck, who were in that period racing against each other in ’11 and ’12 - as I said, Nyck was the only one who hadn’t made it, so [I'm] happy to see him there.

“I’ve always rated him," Russell continued, recalling their time together as Mercedes proteges. "In go-karting, he was the man to beat. I never raced him in go-karting, but out of all of us, he was probably the most successful.

Williams Racing celebrate ninth position on his GP debut for Nyck de Vries (NLD) Williams Racing Reserve Driver. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race

“I’ve never not rated him," he added, acknowledging that it was odd it had taken this long for the Dutch driver to find his way onto the F1 grid despite all his successes elsewhere.

"I think to get to F1 you need to do the job at the right time when there is an opportunity on the grid, and sometimes those stars don’t align," he explained.

“But with the amount of stars that aligned in Monza, it probably made up for the unfortunateness of a few years ago!"

“Definitely intrigued to see how he’ll get on,” Russell added. “I’ve got no doubt that he’ll perform well. He’s got all the possibilities to be a great F1 driver, I’m sure he’ll do great.”

Nyck de Vries (NLD) Williams Racing FW44 Reserve Driver 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race

Norris has been even luckier in finding his way into F1 with a top team while still a teenager, and described de vries as "clearly a very good driver".

“I think he's proved that since the very beginning in karting. He completely dominated a lot of the karting stuff, he's Formula E world champion and many things," he said. “Obviously he deserves it

"He did a good job in Monza when he sat in. He's proved his worth, and we'll see next year what he can do."

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