Formula One world champion Max Verstappen on Saturday said he urged compatriot Nyck de Vries to give Red Bull motorsport head Helmut Marko a call after his impressive debut at last month’s Italian Grand Prix.
De Vries, who finished in the points after being called in at the last minute to stand in for appendicitis-stricken Williams racer Alexander Albon in Monza, was on Saturday announced as a replacement for Alpine-bound Pierre Gasly at Red Bull sister team AlphaTauri for next season.
The move revived the 27-year-old’s F1 hopes, after the former Formula Two and Formula E champion and Mercedes reserve appeared to have missed his chance.
“This is incredible for him,” Verstappen said after taking pole position for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, which could yield him a second successive title.
“He’s been pushing hard for it for a long time and to finally get that opportunity is amazing for him.
“We had a dinner the day after Monza and I told him, like, just give him (Marko) a call.
“You never know what happens and it was also the right time to call him, so Helmut is still probably excited on a Monday from the race on a Sunday.”
“So it worked out really well.”
Marko is a former racer whose responsibilities include looking after Red Bull’s stable of young drivers and scouting for talent.
De Vries will line up alongside Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda at AlphaTauri.
As a member of the Faenza-based outfit, where Verstappen himself got his start, he will join the same Red Bull fold as his compatriot.
His step up to Formula One comes at a time of immense popularity for Formula One in the Netherlands, fuelled by Verstappen’s success.
Speaking earlier on Saturday, AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost said de Vries had been on his radar for some time but that his performance at short notice in Monza convinced him to sign the 27-year-old.
“This had a great influence because it showed his potential,” said the Austrian.
“He drove a fantastic race, did not make any mistakes and therefore it was an easy decision to take him.”