“Everyone makes mistakes,” he admitted. “It’s part of racing. We’re here as a team, we take it as a team and today we fought back as a team. I’m certainly proud of how we came back and kind of saved the day.
“When you start from the back you also need to attack. There is no time for waiting around and we needed to attack. I’m happy that we succeeded today. Thanks to the team for giving me an amazing car.”
Arriving in Sochi a few weeks later, his lead at the top of the table stood at 59-points and the title was there to be taken with a round to spare. For De Vries, who had targeted consistency for so long, he wanted to clinch it in the right way. He had been so focused on scoring strong points regularly, he hadn’t tasted champagne on the top step since Le Castellet in June. He had now built up a big enough buffer to go all out for victory once more, and he didn’t disappoint.
“We really wanted to do it in style and we have had a long consistent run up until this point, with a lot of podiums, but our last win dated back to Paul Ricard, so a little while ago. It really felt like we had to kind of win this, not only to clinch the Championship but also for ourselves, just to make sure that we really deserved this.”
Having Qualified on the pole, his win was briefly put into doubt by Ghiotto, who was on the alternate strategy and had overtaken him. In reality, the race never looked like playing out in any way, other than how De Vries wanted it to. By the time the 24-year-old crossed the finish line, the gap between himself and second-placed Latifi was a healthy 4.9s.
The gap in the standings? 70 points. If he headed towards the Parc fermé with any doubt in his mind that he had really done it, it would have quickly evaporated. Sat in his spot stood a board reading ‘2019 FIA Formula 2 Champion.’
“We were kind of uncertain whether it was really done or not. They told me ‘wait until you get to the pit lane and then you’ll see’. Just looking at the board in front of me when I arrived, that was pretty cool. There were some goosebumps there.”
What happened next was spine-tingling. He arose from the chamber of his striking black and white ART machine and unlike any celebration that had come before it, removed his helmet. He wanted every drop of emotion to be felt by those who had helped him to this point. His fists pumped in the air, a smile beamed from his face and he let out a scream of uncontrolled emotion, before leaping from the top of his car and into the sea of team members waiting to celebrate with him.
He lauded the victory as “revenge” for the disappointment of last season, but it was so much more than that. It was vindication. After all, it was supposed to go this way.