McLaren junior Nyck de Vries has conceded that it was "not realistic" to fight for the title in his rookie season in Formula Renault 3.5, saying that third place was the best result possible.
“You are as good as your final race. Fortunately, I managed to win that one," joked Nyck de Vries in conversation with Motorsport.com.
It had been a logical step for the McLaren protege to enter the Formula Renault 3.5 in 2015 after winning two titles in Formula Renault 2.0 last year and it was also logical for the Dutchman to join French team DAMS, following in the footsteps of champions Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz.
Under pressure to perform, de Vries scored three second and two third places prior the season finale at the Spanish circuit Jerez. Oliver Rowland and Matthieu Vaxiviere were well clear in the standings, but third place in the championship’s standings was still at stake. And that desirable win was still missing.
Everything was well in place during the final race of the season. De Vries didn’t make any mistakes and was fastest man on track, heading Rowland and Vaxiviere to claim his first victory. “This win was very important”, he later admitted.
His strong end to the season allowed de Vries to finish third in the standings by a hefty margin - and as top rookie, too. That said, while the previous three Eurocup champions all fought for the FR3.5 title after moving up to the category, de Vries said he had not expected to be able to do the same.
“Before the start of the season we knew it would not be realistic to go for the championship," he said. "If we looked at testing form, we saw that we couldn’t join the fight. Although we were close to a race win during the first weekend.”
He added: “It wasn’t the quality of the team that was lacking and they believed in me, I believed in them. Together, we just found it difficult to reach the best possible results. I had a strong teammate, too, that was fighting for the GP3 title last year.
“We achieved the best possible results and we concluded that we have done a really good job."
Under guidance of McLaren
That McLaren is experiencing a troubled time in Formula 1 is a rather well-known fact and, on the junior side, their young drivers' programme is running into difficulties, too.
With current drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button set to stay put for next year, the team let Magnussen go, while GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne is set for a reserve driver role..
"With Kevin I saw it coming," de Vries said. "I don’t know more than you do, but I know him personally.
"And if someone deserves a seat in Formula 1 then it’s Stoffel, although I think that will be a difficult objective.”
De Vries knows that the McLaren team has other things on its mind, but he remains hopeful for his own future and expects to know what he’s racing next year within a month or two. He is eyeing GP2, but the decision is not in his hands.
“It’s already the end of October, so I expect we won't have to wait for a decision that long," he said.