The confidence of a man who doesn’t know he’s about to end up in Dutch court. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP (Getty Images)
The world of Formula 1 is a strange one filled with secretive contracts, dodgy deals and sky-high salaries. But, in order to get there, drivers need a huge amount of cash to fund their rise through the junior ranks of regional single-seater racing, F3 and then F2. One driver that’s done just that, and won a Formula E title in the process, is Nyck de Vries, who will make his full-time F1 debut for Alpha Tauri in 2023.
The 27-year-old Dutch racer will make the switch from Formula E to F1 after impressing the paddock with a 9th place finish when he sat in for Williams driver Alex Albon in Monza last year. But, while most people are celebrating the Dutchman’s move to F1, one person isn’t happy about it all.
That individual is Dutch retail magnate Jeroen Schothorst, who sponsored De Vries through his junior campaigns in Formula 2. According to Autosport, Schothorst’s investment company Investrand loaned the racer €250,000 ($269,753) to help him secure a seat in the F2 championship, which he won in 2019.
Nyck De Vries drove an impressive race to 9th in Italy last year. Photo: Marco Canoniero/LightRocket (Getty Images)
The terms of the loan included three percent interest and a cut of De Vries’ income from any F1-related activities. Importantly, Autosport reports that the loan would be waived if De Vries was not an F1 driver by the end of 2022.
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While the Dutchman made his debut with Williams last year, he didn’t have a full-time race seat for the 2022 season. Instead, he will make his full-time Formula 1 debut for Red Bull junior team Alpha Tauri later this year. Autosport reports:
“De Vries paid €190,000 ($205,000) in interest to Schothorst, but because he did not have an F1 deal in place for 2022, he was under the assumption that the loan would be written off as per the agreement.
“But Schothorst claimed in court this week that de Vries had failed to provide the required information about his earnings and contracts during the term of the loan, and is now requesting those details, including those relating to his Alpha Tauri F1 deal.”
According to Autosport, Schothorst is demanding further information about De Vries’ deal for 2023, as well as clarification of his role with Mercedes during the 2022 season. Last year, De Vries was the Silver Arrows’ test and reserve driver in Formula 1, as well as one of its drivers in the Formula E world championship.
Make yourself at home, Nyck. Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)
So, I guess the question will be, does acting as test and reserve driver at a top team count as Formula 1 activities? Schothorst clearly thinks it does, while De Vries does not. Autosport adds:
“According to De Telegraaf, de Vries’s lawyer, Jeroen Bedaux, claimed the F1 driver has proposed to repay the €250,000 loan on top of the €190,000 interest he has already paid, but this proposal was rejected by Schothorst.
“Bedaux also claimed that another factor involved is that de Vries politely declined Schothorst’s offer to become his F1 manager.”
A ruling on the matter is expected in February, right in time for the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season with winter testing in Bahrain.
Nyck De Vries will race for Alpha Tauri in 2023. Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)
The whole case is interesting, as it offers a rare glimpse into the dealings that support a young racer’s rise through the ranks. Sure, we’re used to hearing about people like Lance Stroll having their race career funded by family fortunes, but each of the 20 full-time drivers on the F1 grid has had to cough up sponsorship, cash or other means of financing their junior careers at one point or another.
With the stipulations of this deal demanding a cut of a driver’s F1 income, at least it’s now clear what motivates investors to sponsor young talent.