until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

F1's last reject is happier than you might think

by Sam Smith
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Nyck de Vries is sure about a lot of things. He doesn’t lack confidence and never has.

But there will be a trope swirling around the motorsport industry that the 2021 Formula E world champion’s love of racing is waning and that his career has stagnated after a coruscating 10 Formula 1 events with AlphaTauri last season.

You can see why it’s an image that too readily comes into some people’s minds. There he was at Mexico City 10 days ago, barely keeping touch at the back of the Formula E field on the way to 15th, whereas 10 months before he was on the F1 grid for the first time.

It’s a false image because De Vries looks, feels and is a much more contented and refreshed driver than he was when he staggered forlornly around the F1 paddocks last summer, a man with a heap of pressure probably unfairly deposited on to his shoulders.

The 2024 Nyck de Vries looks like someone we saw in 2022: clear-eyed, that slight strut in his walk. He’s got at least a two-year deal with Mahindra in FE and with Toyota in the World Endurance Championship in his kit bag now, a stability of sorts.

“We do need to accept that in our world there is never a 100% guarantee and certainty that's part of the [racing] world,” De Vries tells The Race, when asked whether having multi-year deals has helped him rebuild from his F1 experience.

“I don't think anyone at any job has that luxury. Even though it might look like that from the outside, you can't ever take anything for granted and it keeps me, at least, on my toes. It's part of the work we do.

“I have a little bit more of a clear path now than I had in the past years, because Formula 1 was almost always kind of there but it wasn't really.

“But equally, I had my racing career in other championships. So, in a way that was unsettling a little bit and now I'm kind of going into a different direction again.

“But I've learned that it's all one journey, and one door closes and a new one opens. That's how life progresses.”

De Vries is clearly now looking at his career differently. Perhaps the flirtation with F1, however you want to judge it, was just that - an added bonus. He earned his drive; it didn’t work out and it wasn’t like his team-mates grabbed a bucket full of points during or after his time at that team. Move on, don’t look back.

“I'm really enjoying where I am, I feel like I'm in two very nice environments [at Mahindra and Toyota],” he continues.

“I feel really supported and I'm enjoying the work that I'm doing in those teams.”

Enjoying the work and getting results usually come hand-in-hand but this year they won’t. De Vries and his Mahindra team-mate Edoardo Mortara, who was quicker throughout the Mexico City weekend largely by dint of a vaster experience of Gen3 machinery, will be chasing crumbs around a plate in terms of points this season.

De Vries was well aware of that from the day last summer when he put pen to his Mahindra contract. Yet it doesn’t make it any easier.

“It's funny, because often success, especially in our world, is only measured against results,” he says.

“Of course, I fully respect that. But, you know, that doesn't mean that when you're not necessarily getting the results, your year or your season was a waste.

“It sounds cliche, but we are learning every day. That's the reality and I think, even more so in our situation, we are aware that our hardware necessarily won't change.

“But there's still a lot of work we can do internally to extract more performance out of our package and to become more robust and solid as a team.”

You won’t find De Vries offering up excuses this season too often. He hasn’t so far proffered his scant experience of driving the Gen3 Mahindra as a pretext to any ‘poor me’ narrative, and he isn’t the kind of person to do that anyway.

But the hard facts are that he is a season behind all bar rookie Jehan Daruvala in Gen3 miles. If that were not enough he had the crucial three days at Valencia in October compromised by, of all things, a neighbouring pit garage catching fire. Then a so-called compensation test in Spain last month was affected by rain. When De Vries needed a break, the racing Gods laughed.

“It's only natural to feel in some aspects of being unprepared, because I think that's coming with a mentality of kind of perfectionism and professionalism that you always feel like you need to do better,” he says.

“So that kind of process obviously is endless. But actually, I feel that we are prepared. Of course, we could have, you know, been 10 times better prepared, but for what we have and for the situation we were in, I think we did the best with what we had.

“At some point, you also just have to start racing, and it's only really when you start to compete when you know how your progress is developing.”

Nyck de Vries is a competitor: lithe, clever, deceptively aggressive.

What we see in 2024 has come via a remarkable episode in his career from September 2022 to July 2023. But it would be a mistake to forget the all-round package that De Vries was prior to that, especially in Formula E.

He probably won’t be able to showcase it fully until 2025, but the world will remember Nyck de Vries as a winner. He’s sure of that.

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