The pair first met in karting, although they belonged to different categories, as the older de Vries climbed first in the standings.
However, they challenged each other in the 2018 FIA F2 championship, which Russell won ahead of Lando Norris, Alex Albon and de Vries.
De Vries was in talks with several F1 teams for a trip to 2022 when his appearance as Albon’s replacement at Williams in the Italian GP pushed him to the top of the list as a potential replacement for Pierre Gasly at AlphaTauri.
“Among the guys in karting, Nyck was the only one who didn’t make it to F1 who probably deserved to do it in F1,” Russell said when Autosport asked him about the Dutchman’s degree.
“So those five riders, including me, Alex, Max [Verstappen]Charles [Leclerc] and Nyck, who at that time were competing against each other in ’11 and ’12, as I said, Nyck was the only one who didn’t make it, so happy to see him there. “
Asked if he rated it higher after working together at Mercedes, Russell said: “I’ve always rated it. In go-karting he was the man to beat. I’ve never raced him in go-karting, but of all of us, he was probably the most successful in go-karting.
“I’ve never rated it. I think to get to F1, you have to do the job at the right time when there’s an opportunity on the grid, and sometimes those stars don’t line up.
“But with the amount of stars that lined up at Monza it probably made up for the bad luck of a few years ago.”
Nyck de Vries, Williams FW44, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Pictures
De Vries will be 28 at the start of next season and Russell admitted he is curious to see how he will perform after gaining so much experience in other categories.
“Definitely curious to see how he will fare,” Russell said. “I have no doubt that she will perform well. He has all the possibilities to be a great F1 driver. I’m sure he will do great ”.
Former F2 rival Norris agreed that De Vries deserves his chance.
“He’s clearly a very good driver,” the McLaren man said when asked about de Vries’ graduation from Autosport.
“I think he proved it right from the start in karting. He has completely dominated many things in karting, he is world champion of Formula E and many other things. So he is a top driver.
“Obviously he deserves it, he did a good job at Monza when he sat down. He has shown his worth and we will see what he can do next year ”.