Max Verstappen revealed on Saturday that he met de Vries for dinner after the latter’s impressive Formula 1 debut for Williams at the Italian Grand Prix and encouraged him to contact Red Bull’s Helmut Marko .
At the time, de Vries was linked to both Williams and Alpine, and had indeed already arranged a test in Budapest with the French team’s 2021 car.
However, Verstappen informed de Vries of what was happening regarding Pierre Gasly’s possible departure from AlphaTauri, and suggested that he call Marko.
De Vries traveled to Graz to meet with Red Bull ‘s adviser and kick off the talks that led to his being announced as an AlphaTauri driver on the Saturday before the Japanese GP.
“Max and I have a great relationship,” de Vries said. “Obviously we’re from a similar era. He’s a bit younger than me, but we grew up in karting, we’re both Dutch, and the way he approached racing with his father, karting, driving in a van around Europe, I think it was very similar to ours.
“We live for the sport and we respect each other a lot as drivers. And even though he’s an F1 world champion, and he’s going to win his second in the best team in the sport at the moment, I’m more or less there. And even though he’s a little younger, I almost feel like I acted like my older brother.
“Obviously, we had dinner together after the Monza event in Monaco, and we talked about the possibilities and opportunities. And that led to a conversation with Dr. Marko, when we met later that week in Austria.”
Regarding how important that dinner with Verstappen was, de Vries added: “It’s not that one thing is the key. So far I’ve taken care of myself and I’ve always listened to the people around me. And knowledge is very important. in this industry.
“And I think sometimes people hold their cards very close to their chests. And it’s important to share information to know what’s going on. And that was very much that kind of conversation.”
De Vries admitted that his last-minute appearance for Williams in Italy played a part, but stressed that he was already in the sights of other teams.
“I will admit that Monza has certainly accelerated a lot of the talks,” he said. “However, I’ve been sort of a part of this F1 merry-go-round for quite some time.
“Obviously after winning Formula E there was an opportunity at Williams last summer. And earlier this season there were also several times where we were in talks.
“I am a Mercedes reserve as well as a Williams reserve. I am close to them and I have a good relationship with the people there. I have always been in the background in the talks.
“First the Oscar [Piastri] thing happened. And then Fernando [Alonso] moved to Aston, just before the summer holidays, which kicked off the entire “silly season.” And I’ve always been part of it. of that in the background.
But I think Monza removed all possible question marks and doubts that people might have, and clearly all the stars aligned for that weekend.”
“The car was competitive at that circuit, there were some grid penalties, there were some DNFs, and without the safety car, frankly, we wouldn’t even have finished the race with right front brake issues. So I’m very grateful for that. moment”.