Andrew Shovlin suggests ‘political elements’ behind lack of Nyck de Vries seat offers

Nyck de Vries in AlphaTauri race suit. January 2023. Credit: Alamy
Nyck de Vries in AlphaTauri race suit. January 2023. Credit: Alamy

Mercedes’s Andrew Shovlin has suggested that there were “political elements” behind Nyck de Vries’ failure to land an F1 seat.

After a long wait, the Dutchman will finally be on the grid in a full-time capacity in 2023 following his move to AlphaTauri but at the age of 28, he is at least six years older than the other rookie drivers.

But as to why it has taken so long for De Vries to get onto the grid remains somewhat of a mystery considering he has championship wins in Formula E and Formula 2 on his CV.

Indeed, it took until a surprise debut at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix for teams to finally take him seriously as a potential driver.

Mercedes trackside engineering director Shovlin has suggested there were “political elements” behind a lack of offers.

“What I think was weird was that there wasn’t more of a fight over his services,” Shovlin stated in the book Max & Nyck.

“Only Red Bull made a call purely based on ability. And I think there were political elements behind him not getting a seat elsewhere.”

As to what elements Shovlin is referring to remain to be seen but De Vries’ Mercedes connections may have been off putting to some. Alpine were one of the teams in the market for a driver but opted for Pierre Gasly while Williams were interested in De Vries’ services but the Dutchman was more tempted by the AlphaTauri offer.

Mercedes may come to regret Nyck de Vries departure says Andrew Shovlin

Long-time Mercedes reserve driver De Vries was finally given a full time seat when Mercedes released him from his contract in order for the Dutchman to take up an offer from AlphaTauri.

Not only does it mean Mercedes can no longer call upon the services of the 2020–21 Formula E champion and the 2019 FIA Formula 2 champion but it also means they have given him to one of their biggest rivals, Red Bull.

Mercedes put up little fight in the negotiations, opting to repay De Vries’ service by not standing in his way, but Shovlin has admitted it is a decision that the Silver Arrows may come to regret.

“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.

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“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.”

Andrew Shovlin tips Nyck de Vries for Red Bull seat

As well as predicting De Vries may be back at the Silver Arrows in the future, he said he would also not be surprised if the Dutchman was promoted to the Red Bull factory team to partner his compatriot Max Verstappen.

“I have no doubt Nyck has the ability to win races if he is with the right team and with the right car,” Shovlin said.

“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.

“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.”

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