Toto Wolff: ‘Niki Lauda would have taken his hat off to Nyck de Vries’

Sam Cooper
Nyck de Vries speaks to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. Hungary August 2021.

Mercedes reserve driver Nyck de Vries and team boss Toto Wolff speak in the pit lane. Hungary August 2021.

Toto Wolff has heaped praise on Mercedes reserve driver Nyck de Vries after he scored points on his F1 debut.

Having driven for Aston Martin in FP1, De Vries was parachuted into the Williams ahead of FP3 after Alex Albon had been taken ill, suffering from appendicitis.

Despite having never raced in F1 before, the Dutchman comfortably out-qualified his team-mate Nicholas Latifi before finishing P9 and earning points at the first time of asking.

The result has only strengthened his position in the driver market with a number of teams, including Williams, having a seat to fill for 2023.

Wolff, who has spent a significant amount time with De Vries as boss of Mercedes, was very complimentary about the 27-year-old and said that no one else could have done a better job.

“I like him,” the 50-year-old Austrian said.

“He is just a good young man. He’s not only fast and has shown that in the junior categories, but he is also intelligent and a good team player, that is why he deserved it here.

“I don’t think that anyone else could have possibly done a better job in what he did.

“You are in an Aston Martin, you are driving around with a rake and then you are being drafted in at the last minute in a different car, you are beating your team-mate by quite a margin, you are starting eighth and you finish ninth.”

Wolff paid perhaps the highest possible compliment by suggesting that Niki Lauda, who served as the Mercedes non-executive chairman until his death in 2019, would have been proud of De Vries.

“Niki would have taken his hat off as a driver,” Wolff said.

De Vries also received some words of encouragement from his compatriot Max Verstappen who was filmed chatting to the stand-in Williams driver before the race.

“First of all, enjoy it and don’t think about it too much, don’t stress about it too much,” Verstappen replied when asked what he said.

“I remember my first one…it happens so quickly everything, but I think more probably if you just tell yourself we’ll see what happens instead of really stressing out – ‘I need a good start, I need a good first lap’.

“You shouldn’t think about that and I think he handled everything really well of course.

“But yeah, it’s nice. We know each other really well so it was just a quick little motivation speech.”