Mercedes may regret the decision to release Nyck de Vries to AlphaTauri for the 2023 Formula 1 season, believes the Brackley-based squad’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin.
De Vries was snapped up by AlphaTauri following an impressive F1 debut at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, where he scored points while standing in for the unwell Alex Albon at Williams.
“I have no doubt Nyck has the ability to win races if he is with the right team and with the right car,” said Shovlin.
“Whether he can become world champion will be down to him. He has less time to achieve it given his age, but he makes up for that with his experience.
“We had an agreement with Nyck that if we couldn’t put him with a Mercedes team, he could go for the best option. And we might regret letting him go.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not long when we’re racing against him in the Red Bull factory team. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that happened in the next 12 months or so.”
Shovlin’s comments are made in a new book called Max & Nyck, released in the Netherlands which analyses Max Verstappen’s impact on Formula 1, and his influence on bringing another Dutch driver to the grid in 2023.
The book also discusses de Vries’ unusual route to Formula 1 as the Dutch driver is set to embark on his first full season in the sport at the age of 28.
Shovlin said that Mercedes could not stand in the way of de Vries landing an F1 seat elsewhere when it became apparent that there would be no free race seats in a Mercedes team while opportunities came up at other teams on the grid.
“He fitted in our team very well, but you can’t hold someone back,” he added.
“He was the ideal test and reserve driver for us. If we could have kept him on the shelf to use him when needed, we would have done that, but then we would have prevented a driver pursuing his dream.
“With his Formula E title, he has meant a lot to the Mercedes brand and he has also been excellent as a reserve driver. That is why we also wanted to help him further.
“This is also important for the future. The chance of Nyck wanting to come back to this team will be influenced by how fair we’ve been with him over the years. There’s nothing to say that Nyck won’t be driving a Mercedes one day in the future.”
AlphaTauri wasted no time in getting in contact with de Vries after his performance at the Italian Grand Prix. De Vries fought to a ninth-place finish with Williams while team-mate Nicholas Latifi only managed 15th.
The fact that Red Bull chased after de Vries so quickly wasn’t something that surprised Shovlin in the slightest.
“What I think was weird was that there wasn’t more of a fight over his services,” he said.
“Only Red Bull made a call purely based on ability. And I think there were political elements behind him not getting a seat elsewhere.”