George Russell “wouldn’t be surprised” if his former karting and Formula 2 rival Nyck de Vries gained a Formula 1 seat in the coming years.
The Dutchman won the F2 championship in 2019 but did not quite make the jump to the F1 grid, with the 26-year-old saying he didn’t hold any grudges about being overlooked for 2020.
De Vries is a reserve driver for the Silver Arrows this season alongside his commitments in the Mercedes-EQ team in Formula E, and won Saturday’s Valencia E-Prix.
Russell has seen De Vries’ development first hand, and says he has proven himself to be talented enough to be considered for a Formula 1 seat.
“We were friends then. In 2011, he was my best friend in the paddock. He raced in KF1, I in KF3 and he dominated absolutely everything,” Russell said to RacingNews365.
“His sheer dominance in his karting career may have hurt him a little when he got into the single-seaters because he had never seen any setbacks before in his career.
“He definitely has the speed to be a great driver in my opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets into Formula 1 in the next few years. He’s proven himself in Formula E, he’s always there fighting for that world title and he really is a great driver.”
GRANDEEE!!! GET IN. GET IN! @nyckdevries WINS Saturday's #ValenciaEPrix by overtaking on the final lap as @svandoorne crosses the line in P5!!! 🤩🤩🤩#wedrivethecity #ABBFormulaE pic.twitter.com/7EtAkQUOHg
— Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team (@MercedesEQFE) April 24, 2021
The pair had raced against each other in Formula 2, with Russell winning the 2018 championship before his graduation to F1 at Williams, with De Vries taking the title a year later – but found his options limited afterwards.
Having experienced his talent first hand, Russell believes a Formula 1 drive would be possible for the Dutchman if he keeps up his performances in Formula E.
He added: “We’ve obviously had some comings-together on track in Formula 2, he’s a hard racer but always fair. Missing him is an exaggeration, but he’s doing great and, like I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him back in Formula 1 some time in the coming years.”
With setbacks coming later in his career after sailing serenely through the lower categories, does the Williams man believe it has made the Dutchman a stronger driver for it?
“Without a doubt,” he said. “Everything goes well in life sometimes, but when you get to the top you always have to deal with big disappointments. If you don’t know how to deal with that, it will eat you up and then it affects your performance.
“Remember my race at Imola last year when I crashed behind the Safety Car, but also think of the two tough years I had in my junior career, 2013 and 2015.
“Those moments helped me in my further development. The race for Mercedes in Bahrain last year was also a bitter pill to swallow, but I’ve now left it in the past.”