Formula 1 | ‘Operation de Vries’: How Williams F1 coped with the unexpected in Italy

'Operation de Vries': how (...)

That was the defining story of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza: the last-minute call-up of Nyck de Vries to Williams; his rather successful qualifications (passage to Q2); and of course, his 9th place finish, equaling the team’s best result of the year.

However, nothing was easy, as the deadlines were so short.

The first obstacle was the adaptation of the Nyck de Vries tub. Because 20 centimeters separated him from the size of the ‘big’ Alexander Albon, package due to appendicitis!

Ben Howard, the chief mechanic, recounts this first episode.

“It was a matter of sourcing the tub, belts and all the associated parts with Kats Shirahata, our main parts coordinator. »

“About an hour before PR3 we learned that Alex had appendicitis, so I passed the information on to Gorka Narbarte, our number 1 mechanic on this car and his guys got straight to work. »

“We used parts that we had put aside, which saved us a lot of time because from Alex to Nyck, there is a big difference between their sizes and their weights. Anything you could change, we did. »

“You have a new driver, you don’t know how he will react because it was a great moment for him. We were all behind him, we all made an effort to make him comfortable, making sure the seat and the seat belts were OK, but not rushing him – you have to put yourself in his shoes, it worked. must have been a little intimidating. »

EL3s that didn’t look like previous EL1s with Williams

George Britton, the engineer in charge of performance, then spoke very quickly with Nyck de Vries. He had to remind him of the thousand new procedures to learn, in EL3 (Nyck de Vries’ first session of the weekend), to go from the Aston Martin F1 (which Nyck de Vries had driven in EL1 at Monza) to the Williams.

“It was about consulting the driver’s manual and reminding him of the most important things he needed to know to be able to drive the car. »

“He already knew them thanks to his driving with Williams in EL1 in Barcelona, ​​but having driven the Aston Martin the day before and a Mercedes a few weeks before, he could be forgiven for forgetting most of them! »

“From the moment he sat down to the moment he got in the car, it was therefore a question of giving him as much quality information as possible. »

For this driving plan for Nyck de Vries in EL3, necessarily as restricted as it is crucial before qualifying, choices have been made, continues James Urwin, chief race engineer at Williams.

“The track plan in EL3 has changed a bit, but not massively. »

“We decided to worry about qualifying and push back the fuel-heavy running and tire management to Sunday, so he would learn it almost on the job. »

“As Alex was relatively comfortable in free practice on Friday, we thought we were right on the set-up and didn’t need to change anything for Nyck. »

« There’s a certain way of driving our car, let’s say, and we just had to take that into account so that Nyck could get up to full speed, which we did. It was a busy day… two busy days in the end! »

The star of the weekend, but a star to preserve

Dominique Heyer-Wright, in charge of press relations, also had to manage the multiple media requests… while giving priority to concentration, trying to preserve Nyck de Vries’ time as much as possible.

She tells.

“There was a bit of tension in the air as soon as I entered the motorhome as Alex hadn’t arrived yet. »

“Almost instantly two people told us they had just seen Nyck walk into our garage, so we had to push them away and ask them to wait for a statement. »

« I went into the marketing room to send out the final release and within minutes all the TV broadcasters were filming outside the hospitality, so a few of our team came out to answer questions. additional, but the press release contained everything. »

“I quickly put together a schedule for Nyck to have a look at, and briefly explained where he needed to go and what to expect, everything up to dinner with our chefs was covered! »

“On Sundays we usually try to limit any media activity – after all, we all know how Alex is – so we try to leave our drivers alone. »

“We went from a large number of scheduled engagements to spontaneous engagements. Predictably, many Dutch media wanted to interview him, so he did an interview on the way to the pilot parade. »

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