Nyck de Vries specjalnie dla ŚwiatWyścigó - Nyck de Vries exclusively for ŚwiatWyścigó

Nyck de Vries is a driver who has managed to get behind the wheel of three different cars this season, and scored his first points in his surprise debut for Williams at Monza. It is already known that he will be an AlphaTauri driver next year, although several teams had shown interest in the Formula E world champion. Before his F1 role was announced, Roksana Ćwik talked to the Dutchman before the Singapore Grand Prix.

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You had an unexpected F1 debut at Monza. How would you rate yourself for performing in this race?
Well, it's a bit weird to rate myself and I would feel uncomfortable giving myself any marks. I'm just very pleased with how it went. I do want to acknowledge that we've been helped by fortune. All the stars were aligned. Obviously we moved up a couple of positions in the grid thanks to grid penalties. There were few retirements. Also the safety car at the end of the race played in our hands. So we got help a little bit, but at the same time we took the chance and we did our job. Happy that it went so well and just grateful to have lived this moment.

I asked because it's not only the penalties, not only the safety car, but you showed a lot of people that you can make a lot of things, even in Williams' car. It was impressive. I was really surprised when I saw your speed, your presentation. You proved that you belong here.
Well, that's very kind. I can't say that about myself. Williams' car definitely fit the track because of course the car is very strong on the straights. But I was not conscious of it, I just lived the moment. I only got the call 1,5 hours before FP3, so everything was very rushed and there was no time to really think. I just did it. I just did what I felt was right. Obviously the team helped me very well in kind of getting ready for the essentials and just being able to drive the car out of the garage and doing what is required. But there was still a lot of unknown and I still made mistakes in qualifying. I hit some switches in my second Q2 lap in Turn 1, Turn 2, which moved the brake balance rearwards for Turn 4. I think all in all, it was obviously a great weekend and we all really enjoyed it.

Was it physically difficult to complete the race due to the relatively short total time spent in the F1 car? Formula E cars tend to be a bit more comfortable and you had a lot of trouble getting out of the F1 car at the end of the race.
I will be very honest - I don't think I'm fit enough at this moment. Of course, everyone has raced, everyone has already started in 17 Grand Prix races, and Monza is the easiest race of the season. I definitely would need to push and work on that. At the same time, it's normal. In the past 12 months I've been racing in Formula E. I've done endurance work. I've done a lot of simulator work for F1. I'm traveling to the Formula One races. There is only so much you can do. My main priority was not being fully fit for Formula One because I had to divide my attention and focus. I was a little surprised how the shoulders behaved after that, because it's a bit uncommon. But it was definitely physically tough and this would be a much harder race. But I know that I'm committed and I actually very much enjoy training. If in the future there would be an opportunity to be here permanently, then I have no doubt that I'll be able to prepare for it.

You made a full season in Formula E, you are a world champion. How do you feel when you are in a Formula E car and F1 car? What is the biggest difference?
[They are] worlds apart. I think Formula 2 is much closer to Formula 1. Also the way the racing is done with the strategy, the different tires, the pit stops, the racing.

More drama in Formula E… (laugh)
Yeah, there's a lot of drama. Obviously the level in Formula E is extremely high, but the championship is very different, as well as driving. Obviously FE cars have no downforce. We are driving on road tires, the tracks have very low grip. Often people compare the two, but I think it's not really right because the championship is born with different values and different kinds of emphasis. Obviously Formula E is much more focused on sustainability, attracting a different audience and spreading a bigger message than racing. Also promoting climate change. So it's just a different championship.

How does it feel to work for a Mercedes and one day drive an Aston Martin car and then a Williams car?
I'm very privileged to see so many teams. You'd be surprised to find that everyone works differently and you see the differences in each organization. It's very valuable learning. I know this sounds maybe cliche, but it's really true. You know, getting that experience, seeing how people work, seeing how people do things. Obviously when I drove the Aston Martin on Friday, I thought that was my weekend. I did a FP1, I went to Mercedes to see everyone there and I stayed on track until like 11:00, 11:15 PM to talk with them about their Friday. I was just curious to catch up and after that I was in bed by midnight - which is normally way too late for me - not thinking that anything could happen. And then the next day when I was in the Paddock Club, things changed drastically.

We know that Alex is fit and he will make the Singapore Grand Prix. Are you waiting if they will call you after FP1 because everything can change after the session.
First of all I wish Alex very well, because he is a very gentle and nice guy. Obviously he had to go through a bit of a rough time. Luckily he's healthy and I think he bounced back very quickly. Looking at his training and seeing even better today, I think he showed that he is recovering well. I really wish him a good weekend and that he will be back in his seat. From my side I do what I can to be kind of ready. That's my job, really. I'm a reserve driver, so that is my duty.

When you didn't graduate to F1 after winning F2, did you think the dream was over? I am asking because almost in the same situation is Felipe Drugovich. Have you got any advice for him?
No. I think he is good and smart enough to find his own way. Everyone is different and everyone walks their own path. When I went to Formula E I thought that was maybe going to be my long term future. When Mercedes withdrew after we won the championship, you realize that things change very quickly in this world. It's all out of my control. The only thing that I can do is try and focus on what I do and perform on track - ultimately your performance is the only way to continue your career successfully. Was my dream over? No. Was it very conscious and active? No. But things happen and sometimes it looks more likely than other times. You live with the wave and you work hard and try to grab all the opportunities that have come your way.

After the success of the Italian Grand Prix, is your dream to bring back to the grid higher? Can you say something about the talks behind the doors? Is there anything more, something serious now?
Well, it's like with anything in life - once you taste something nice, you want it again. Basically, that's how I explained myself. First, I was grateful to live the moment once, to race a Grand Prix and even do a good job. But then once you do it once you actually realize how good it is and then you want more of it. I think I share that feeling.

You have never driven in Singapore. How difficult Singapore is for you as a reserve driver and for the drivers who are on the grid, because a lot of them are saying that it's a very physical and the most difficult race of the season.
I clearly have the same feedback from everybody else and I think you've seen, like me, everyone was pushing last week to train and prepare for it. I also did a little bit on my part… But I have no clue. I know as much as you. I have the same feedback, but I've never driven here and I don't know what it's like. I think I can imagine it because, for example, when you do Sebring in February in Florida, it's also very humid and it's a closed car, so it's very hot. I think I can relate a little bit to the feeling. Ultimately, if it comes, it comes, and you have to just live with it and deal with it somehow.

So you are on the standby.
Well, that's why I'm here for. Yes.

How different are the physical demands of F1 compared to endurance racing?
It's quite different. The duration of endurance racing is long, but the forces are not as high compared to Formula 1. I think in Formula 1, because the cars have so much downforce and the cars are so quick through corners, the loads that your body and your neck have to cope with are enormous. When you go to places like this, when it's humid, then there's less oxygen in the air and also the cardio comes in. Le Mans is physical. I mean, Le Mans is just endless and tiring because you don't sleep and your whole body is fatigued. I think it's a different stress. Formula E can be difficult because in a Formula E you don't have power steering and because the tracks are so tight, you're always turning a lot. So I guess everyone has its challenges, but I think we can agree that this is one of the most physical championships out there.

You started in Le Mans and you mentioned it. What's the hardest part of this race? What time of day - night or morning?
Waking up at 3 or 4 AM. You've been in the car already probably two times. So you already did like a triple or quadruple stint. Then you go to sleep for 2 hours, 1,5 hours. And then during the night obviously your body clock… It's very comfortable to sleep at that time. They wake you up at like 3, 4 AM to go in again. I mean, at that point you really think: «Just leave me, I'm happy to stay in bed. Just forget it». Of course you can’t do that. They pull you out of bed and you find your motivation together and then you go again. That's how it feels. When they come to wake you up, you're just like: «just leave me alone».

Back to Williams: did the team change something in Alex's car or was everything made for Alex… Did they give you something specifically for your needs?
They changed the pedal position, the seat, and we put Nicholas' steering wheel inside.

Does being a world champion in a different series mean anything in the F1 paddock? There is an opinion that it does not change anything.
It doesn't mean anything. I kind of agree. I mean, I agree to the extent. If you're outside Formula 1, maybe it values something because if your career is outside of Formula 1, then any championship you win and whether it's a world championship or not, it matters to you because you are racing in those championships. But I fully understand that when you're in Formula 1 a champion outside Formula 1 is maybe less recognized.

I think it’s not less because you won the Formula E championship in a FE car, that is not so easy to drive…
Yeah, true. But this is the pinnacle of our sport. It has all the recognition, all the attention. It's just normal and natural that this will have the biggest recognition if you win. It's just life. If I look at different sports like athletics or in the Netherlands - speed skating is very big. If I look at their recognition for the hours training they do and for the work they put in relative to our sport, it's nothing. But they work maybe harder than us. What I'm trying to say is that the platform almost decides how much recognition, your performance and your achievements are.

Who is the most difficult driver in Formula E to compete? Antonio?
I think the championship is difficult and the championship creates certain situations. Also, if I look at my own past season, I'm not really happy with it and not necessarily satisfied. But also I feel like I wasn't really me when I look at my racing. The series is almost creating certain situations because when people are in attack mode and not in attack mode, you have to overtake to make your strategy work and the grip is super low. Honestly, when you kiss the brake pedal, everything is already locking. I don't think everyone means that and everyone has a fairly good relationship with each other. But it's just that all the ingredients of the championship are creating such contact and rough racing.

Back to F1. Since the last race week you have done a test with an Alpine car in Hungaroring. Can you say something more about it? Is it a secret or not?
Well, you know about it…

I mean, how was it?
Well, it went very well. I like Budapest very much. I think I have my first Formula Renault Eurocup win in Budapest. Ok, I’m joking, I know what you mean. I like Budapest and obviously getting the chance to drive a Formula One car in Budapest was great and it went very well. Nothing really more to add than that.

Another question about Formula E: what is your opinion about the Valencia situation with the stewards, with the energy? What is your point of view about that situation?
Formula E can become so complicated that I think sometimes not everyone actually understands what's going on. I felt personally for the FIA organization in that particular race – to my feeling they didn't do that much wrong. Last year they were deducting energy depending on how much time we would spend behind a full course yellow or safety car. Now it's different – now they add race time. So in that instance, the last energy reduction was quite harsh, but they were in the right to do so and everyone knows that it's written in the regulations like that. Whether you think it was appropriate or not, they had the right to do so and everyone was aware of that. On top of that, Antonio could have made the race a one lap race, but he decided to restart early and he made it a two lap race. So then you had two laps of racing with very little energy, which obviously caused a bit of a tricky situation. But to just blame the FIA for it or the organization I think was unfair because we were quite conscious of what was happening, at least my team was, and I think they deserve to be rewarded for it.

You said that sometimes Formula E is too complicated. Don't you think that some things should change a little bit to be more open to the fans because I see the reactions of our readers and they are writing something like: «why it's so complicated?» Some of them really don't understand some situations.
I do agree. You can argue – is it fun when racing is predictable or is it fun when it's very unpredictable? I think there is a kind of a middle way. If you look at Formula One now, we all know that Max is going to win the championship but actually the racing is great because you have three teams in front that are pretty close and there is a battle. Not only there is a battle in front, but there is also a battle in the midfield. In Formula E you could never ever predict someone winning. That is exciting, but at the same time you don't build a very strong storyline. Also for fans to support someone, you could have a driver, you could support me and I could have two or three weekends without points and that is just hard to explain. What is right or wrong? What is the solution? I don't know, but I do agree that it should aim to maybe simplify things a little bit.

What do you think about Fan Boost? Sometimes it seems to me that the same drivers get it and nothing changes here. I don't know if you agree with me.
I think that Fan Boost will be banned next year, which is right. I mean, the idea was good but I think the championship has reached a point that it has grown beyond the necessity of having the Fan Boost.

If you could change something in Formula E, what would it be and why?
Well, they're obviously introducing a new [Gen3] car. I think introducing pit stops and using that as a strategy element because pit stops are known across many championships and I think it makes a bit more sense and it's a bit less random than the attack mode. Obviously whenever you have the attack mode it's very much dependent on the drivers around you, whether you're losing positions or not. Sometimes that has a huge influence on the outcome of the race.

Is winning the Le Mans high on the list of your top wishes?

What is your favorite track and why?
I like a lot of tracks. I generally really like street and authentic tracks. Like old tracks when you don't have runoff areas, when you have grass, walls and gravel, because it just appreciates the risk a little bit more. When you go through those new tracks like…

Paul Ricard?
Strangely, I like the layout. Paul Ricard or even Abu Dhabi, those tracks... There's a lot of space and the risk is just treated differently compared to street tracks like this [in Singapore] or Monaco or Baku, and then tracks like Spa and Budapest. Just authentic tracks.

Have you ever thought about IndyCar?
I tested IndyCar. I think that's probably the most physical car out there. I wanted to experience it and see what it's like, and I clearly really enjoyed it. But I think at this point, I am still too deeply into the European racing scene. But who knows in the future? I'm not ruling it out, but at this moment, I just want to make the most of the racing in Europe.

Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.
Thank you.

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