It’s been a minute since Nyck de Vries was last in Formula E. In 2021 he was celebrating a world championship victory, two short years later he was racing in Formula 1 – a foray that history shows was all too brief.
Now he’s back in the all-electric series, looking to rebound after his exit from AlphaTauri, and use his experience as a champion to help Mahindra move forwards.
“It’s always nice to come back to familiar surroundings, it feels like coming home,” de Vries tells RACER of his Formula E return. “I generally feel like I’ve received a warm welcome from the FE community. I have good memories from Formula E. So, yeah, I’m very, very happy and excited to be back.”
But when he says “back”, the series is massively different to the one he left at the end of the 2021-22 season.
“I mean, it has definitely evolved,” he says. “And it’s different to when I last raced in GEN2.
“But I will say that the main principles are still the same. I think I will have to get used to the GEN3 racing. I probably need a bit more time to get on top of that. Apart from that, what you see is still a lot of familiar faces, and I would say the core of Formula E still remains the same.”
The current car has both front and rear drivetrains, the front handling regeneration, as well as an overall climb in power, but while de Vries is a year behind most of the rest of the field when it comes to the GEN3 car, he isn’t fazed by that.
“It’s a matter of expectations. No. I don’t see it as a handicap,” he insists. “I think I personally never really approach things like that. It is the way it is, and we take it as it comes.
“I feel we are still in a good position. I feel like as a team, we’ve made progress this winter. But it’s the second season so everyone will naturally clutter. I just accept that I will probably need a little bit of time to get up to speed, which is normal.”
Of course, during his Formula E absence, de Vries was racing in F1. It was a stay that perhaps didn’t live up to expectations after a stellar cameo appearance for Williams in 2022. And while he won’t be drawn too much on his spell with AlphaTauri, de Vries – who also had spells as a tester for McLaren and Mercedes – is willing to hint that his time in F1 was somewhat beneficial.
2020-21 champion de Vries is now tasked with helping Mahindra move back up the grid. Dom Romney/Motorsport Images
“It’s a little bit cliche to say, but we learn every day,” he says. “We live, we learn and we learn from our experiences. And that counts the same for me. I’ve also gone off and do some different things in the second half of the year, which I enjoyed.
“So as an individual, I’m constantly outside learning and developing, hopefully, and not standing still. So of course, all the experiences I’ve gone through will make me who I am today.”
Part of de Vries’ continued development will involve helping Mahindra move forward, too. The Indian brand has had a tricky start to life in Formula E’s third generation, having the lowest podium count of all the manufacturers represented by two teams.
A 15th place finish in the season-opener in Mexico City last weekend might be something of a disappointing result on paper for a world champion, but de Vries is optimistic about his and Mahindra’s future prospects.
“The team has gone through some changes, and especially recently, the management has changed a little, although the foundation was already great,” he says. “But it is going through a kind of transition phase and it’s great to be part of that.
“The hardware is obviously still the same as last year, which on paper, if you purely look at that result, it’s not necessarily the best on the grid, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do better.
“(We’re looking to) build on what we currently have, creating a solid operational team that is ready for the fight to fight in front and extract the maximum out of the package we have now while we’re improving our processes and growing as a team.”
It might seem like an uphill task, but de Vries doesn’t look at it the same way. He knows it’ll be a challenge, but it’s one he appears to be relishing.
“People say what they want to say,” he insists. “I think winning in all racing is difficult, winning in every sport is difficult. So I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s harder here than anywhere else.”