Following Le Castellet, De Vries’ attention switched to consistency and maximization of points. The lead was his, there was little to be gained in risking a strong points’ finish, for a race win. This can be seen in the number of podiums the Dutchman achieved, without finishing in first. In the five races that followed France, he achieved four podiums. Third, third, third, and second. The risk was larger than the reward when it came to winning.
This could be seen in Spielberg, when he controlled Free Practice and was then untouchable in Qualifying. He clearly had the pace to win and he was leading the Feature Race with five laps to go, but his tires had taken a battering and had he attempted to retain first, he risked a DNF. He knew this and didn’t put up much of a fight when Nobuharu Matsushita and Luca Ghiotto successfully blazed past him.
There’s an argument to be made that he was only in that position because he had been too keen earlier in the race and burnt out his rubber. “Apparently I was too eager in the first phase of the prime stint and asked too much from my tires,” the Dutchman claimed. While this may be true, he still opted to avoid the risk at the end and was satisfied with another podium. “we’ll take P3 and the points,” he said.
The podiums and the plaudits kept on coming. In Silverstone, he lacked the pace of recent events, but still, he delivered third place. “Unfortunately, this weekend we were not competitive enough to [win]. In that case, you need to try and bring home as many points as possible. We do that through fighting,” he asserted.
The trend continued. Even in Budapest, when Latifi secured a first win since Round 3, De Vries backed him up in second place and therefore minimized his rival’s gain. The Dutchman wasn’t allowing the Canadian any room to breathe – he was suffocating him with consistency. In Monza, De Vries finished third again in both races. Latifi failed to score a point.
De Vries summarised: “We were consistent and they [his title rivals] were taking points off each other. I never looked at it that way but after one race one of my friends, who were all very much involved and supportive, made that comment. I thought it made quite a lot of sense but we just stayed focused on our job.”
That’s not to say he was ever boring, in fact, his title success was littered with overtakes and draw-dropping moments, none more so than in Monza, when his team was found to have made a mistake with his fuel load in Qualifying. He was subsequently disqualified and would start the race from last.
The Dutchman was magical in the events that followed. His drive in the Feature Race from last, to P3, was imperious and served as a reminder of his undeniable ability to fight and battle when he needed to.