X44 retains Loeb and Gutierrez for championship challenge in Extreme E Season 2

Formula E champion Nyck de Vries remembers last season’s triumphs and looks forward to another Diriyah E-Prix win

RIYADH: Diriyah will always hold a special place in Nyck de Vries’ heart.

It was here, in the northwest of Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, that the Dutchman made his debut as an ABB FIA Formula E driver in 2019.

Then, in 2021, he broke another duck at Diriyah, this time the first of his two E-Prix wins to date – one that paved the way for De Vries to finally clinch a dramatic first championship for him. and his team.

Last year, under the lights for the first time in the series’ history, and swaying between the 21 corners that sweep the street circuit of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, there was real romance in the shopping in Saudi Arabia.

And De Vries – who won the first double-header of the February 2021 season – was one of many who were captivated.

“It’s probably unfair to ask a driver what his favorite track is because we’re biased, but Diriyah is definitely my favorite track on the calendar,” De Vries said on the eve of the driver’s first world title defense. 26 years old. .

“It treated me well last year and also in my first Formula E race in 2019. I really like the layout because it’s twisty but fast at the same time, the slowest corner isn’t actually considered a slow speed corner under the Formula E metric.

“I like racing there and the competition at night makes it a bit more special and unique, at night everything becomes a bit more intense and there is more emotion.”

In ABB FIA Formula E, all that intensity, all that emotion is played out at speeds of up to 280km/h and Diriyah’s third year on the E-Prix circuit has set the tone for an exciting championship in 2021.

De Vries, who also emerged victorious in Valencia two stages later, finally held on in the final race of the year to secure the drivers’ championship with just seven points.

His efforts helped his Mercedes-EQ Formula E team seal the double by an even thinner margin, with four points separated by Mercedes and Jaguar Racing as the checkered flag fell at the final race in Berlin in August. last.

De Vries and Mercedes are now well-established teams for the 2022 championship, but the same couldn’t be said when they entered ABB FIA Formula E hand in hand with Diriyah three years ago.

“In 2019 I started my Formula E season before I could finish my Formula 2 season, so I had very little time to adapt and prepare,” explained De Vries. “I did a test this summer but I remember we didn’t have much time. It was still a brand new team. Not only was I really a rookie, but I felt like we were all a team.

Clearly, the driver and team have come a long way since then and there has been no letting up since becoming the first winners of ABB FIA Formula E under the FIA ​​banner.

After the last race in Berlin last year, De Vries contested two rounds of the European Le Mans Series before the end of the year and set the fastest times in testing for IndyCar and FIA Formula One in December.

After describing his team’s pre-Christmas test in Valencia as going “very well”, De Vries – one of the most sought-after drivers in motorsport – says the variety in his busy personal schedule helps to ensure that the native of Uitwellingerga remains extremely precise behind the wheel.

“The only way to stay on my toes is to keep running,” he explained. “I definitely want to stay in Formula E, there’s no doubt about it. I personally believe it’s important for a driver to stay active and keep practicing their racing skills in different disciplines.

Despite heading to Saudi Arabia as champions, De Vries feels no added pressure as he transitions from hunter to hunter.

He added: “I am looking forward to a new season and a new championship. We are the defending champions and I can’t wait to be able to defend those championships. We have a lot of positivity and excitement in our team, we are growing as a family and I am looking forward to a new season.

“There’s always pressure, I’m always nervous and I’m always stressed on race days because I care and I want to do well and I want to deliver. But being the defending champion doesn’t change anything. I’m very grateful to have had the privilege of winning the championship and all that goes with it, but there is no additional pressure.

That being said, all eyes will be on De Vries when he returns to Diriyah for the first E-Prix of the new campaign on January 28-29.

He will no doubt be looking to write another memorable chapter of his career on the circuit he loves and, with fans back in the stands, De Vries was quick to share some advice for any young Saudi looking to shoot. a leaf from his book and pursue a career in motorsport.

“Follow your passion and your dreams,” De Vries said. “No one has the right to rob you of courage or say something is impossible.

“It’s a tough journey if you set a goal and always keep that in mind and work for it, then the hard work pays off and later you will get to where you want to be. This is not always so simple, but I would say follow your passions and dreams and believe in them.

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