If ever Formula 1 wanted proof that Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is the sport’s puppetmaster, they need look no further than the Silly Season which has the likes of Alex Albon and Nyck de Vries in the picture for a place on the grid next year.
F1 waits on Wolff to confirm either Valtteri Bottas will remain with the World Champion team, or gets ousted to make way for George Russell. That decision is made but not for public consumption, however, all indicators are the Finn will be leaving.
Throw into that: Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement leaving an open seat at Alfa Romeo, perhaps two as the word is Antonio Giovinazzi is also on his way out and with Russell’s arrival at Mercedes from Williams (should it happen), means three seats need filling.
Bottas is sure to get one, but the other two are up for grabs.
And, it appears, Wolff’s plans for one of those seats include highly rated Formula E champion Nyck De Vries, while Red Bull are very keen to get Alex Albon back on the F1 grid but team boss Christian Horner fears Wolff may block such a move.
Should Bottas – who Wolff manages and rates very highly – be axed, the logic would be he swaps back to Williams, but reports suggest he is actually going to Alfa Romeo. Speculation is De Vries will join him there; amounting to two Mercedes-backed drivers at the Ferrari powered team, while Albon slots in at Williams powered by Merc!
However, nothing is confirmed as Wolff explained: “I guess at the moment it revolves around Alex Albon who, as Christian says, deserves a seat; he is a really good kid, and he is probably the main protagonist in the… [musical] chairs.
“I would never block someone like Alex Albon; he’s a fantastic guy, personality is great, I was personally sad to see him going, and if he has a chance in a Formula 1 car I think that’s the right thing to do. But equally, maybe Nyck has. So we’ll have to look at the open spaces at Alfa and at Williams and try to find a solution.”
De Vries indeed does deserve a crack at F1, in fact, it is well overdue considering some of the journeymen toiling in F1 right now. Nevertheless, his inclusion in this edition of the Silly Season comes as a surprise, albeit a pleasant one.
Asked if the Dutch driver will step up to F1 next year? Wolff was typically cryptic: “I don’t know. I think the great thing with Nyck is that he has two options: he has the guaranteed seat in Formula E which is a really tough championship, and on the other side there’s maybe 50/50 chance that he will be in a Formula 1 car.”
De Vries won the 2020-2021 Formula E championship for Mercedes, but the manufacturer also announced they are departing the electric series at the end of the 2022 season.
The F1 world now waits on Wolff to make his next move. (Additional reporting by Agnes Carlier)