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F1: Is Time Nearly Up for Nyck de Vries?

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 23: Nyck de Vries of Netherlands driving the (21) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT04 prepares to drive in the garage during day one of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on February 23, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202302230631 // Usage for editorial use only //

Eight races into his rookie season and Nyck de Vries is still yet to score a point, how much longer can AlphaTauri afford to give him?

Nyck de Vries’ debut season in Formula 1 has so far been an underwhelming one, as the Dutchman has failed to live up to what Red Bull expected from him following his heroic 2022 rookie appearance.

Oracle Red Bull Racing’s sister side Scuderia AlphaTauri snapped at the chance of signing De Vries after he finished ninth on his F1 debut last season, after replacing Alex Albon at Williams Racing from FP3 onwards at the Italian Grand Prix. Albon was ruled out after being diagnosed with appendicitis, awarding De Vries the chance of a lifetime.

As well documented, the 28-year-old thrived at the chance, which ultimately came with the reward of a seat for 2023 at AlphaTauri. With him certainly being one of the oldest rookies in recent years and experienced across several championships, Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmut Marko expected him to lead the Faenza-based team.

That so far hasn’t happened, with Yuki Tsunoda seemingly flying the AlphaTauri flag alone. Eight races into his full debut season and De Vries is yet to score a point, something which is now hurting the team. AlphaTauri literally hit rock-bottom in the Constructors’ Championship at the Canadian Grand Prix, where De Vries endured another race to forget.

What Happened in Montreal?

De Vries started from P17 following yet another Q1 elimination; however, he did at least qualify ahead of his team-mate. He actually had a fairly strong first half of the race, as he found himself in P13 come Lap 35/70. This is where things went wrong though, whilst battling Haas’ Kevin Magnussen who was yet to pit.

As they approached the braking zone for the opening corner, De Vries dived to the inside and out-braked himself, although in his defence he stayed within the white lines. De Vries’ attempt forced Magnussen off the track but the Dane rejoined on the inside of De Vries at Turn 2, with their duel having continued as they approached Turn 3.

De Vries tried to dive down Magnussen’s inside again; however, he locked-up and sent the pair of them into the runoff area. When he eventually reversed back onto the circuit, De Vries was last. The AlphaTauri driver went on to be the last running car across the line.

Interestingly, he didn’t receive a penalty. The stewards deemed it to be a racing incident. Despite not being penalised, it can be argued that De Vries still received a punishment, as the collision ended any hope of a first top 10 finish of 2023.

What Did De Vries and Magnussen Say Afterwards?

Both De Vries and Magnussen accepted it was a racing incident, with De Vries saying after the race, as reported by

“We were just racing each other hard through [Turns] 1, 2. I was kind of on the dirt, pushing each other hard into that braking point, and I locked up and went straight.

“There was less grip and it was very bumpy, which didn’t help. It’s also not really a straight braking zone, you’re constantly turning a bit, which is tricky.”

“I felt like I had the momentum and thought I kind of had him, but then he almost went for the grass, on the kerb to get me back.”

“But I don’t blame him, that’s part of the game. It was a racing incident, nothing more or less.”

Magnussen completely agreed and had no complaints about the duo “racing pretty hard”, saying:

“He was racing pretty hard, that’s for sure. But who am I to complain about that?”

“I think the problem was he missed his braking in Turn 3 and took me with him. That was it. He had the inside but then outbraked himself and couldn’t make the corner.”

“I was on the outside, so I was blocked, and we ended up on the run-off with him. That was unlucky for me.”

Was it De Vries’ First Incident of the Season?

No. Whilst the Dutch driver avoided being penalised, it marked another error for De Vries to add to his growing list for 2023. The Dutchman crashed twice during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and then ploughed into the back of Lando Norris in Miami.

The latter was as a result of De Vries braking too late into the opening corner at the start of the race. Rookies are, of course, going to make errors; however, De Vries isn’t in a position where he can continue to do wrong.

To start with, AlphaTauri being last in the standings is a big problem for the side, given that it’d not only mark another season without progress, but it’d see them receive minimal prize money at the end of the season. It also isn’t a good look for Red Bull, who boast a commanding lead at the top of the Constructors’ Championship.

Forgetting about the team for a second, De Vries’ mistakes are likely going to cost him a future in F1, partly due to his age. Whilst team principal Franz Tost insists a rookie needs three seasons to adjust to F1, De Vries doesn’t have this luxury. If he was in his early-20’s then it’d be a different story.

Why would a team designed for junior drivers award an underperforming driver a seat until they’re 31 years old, especially when there is a selection of young Red Bull Junior drivers waiting for an opportunity.

De Vries’ only chance to remain in F1 is to become AlphaTauri’s leader, as a much younger driver with time on their side could do a similar job to him currently.

What have Red Bull Said?

Red Bull have openly admitted that De Vries hasn’t been performing to the desired level, with the sole exceptions being his performances in Monaco and Spain.

Already there’s been plenty of speculation that De Vries’ seat is in jeopardy, and that he could be the latest driver to be axed by Red Bull mid-season.

Marko addressed the situation ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix where De Vries did show promise. The 80-year-old told F1 Insider that he’d shown De Vries a “yellow card”, saying, as reported by RacingNews365:

“We talked to De Vries and he agrees with us: he needs to improve.

“The distance to teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who is doing great, is too big. To speak in football player language: Nyck got the yellow card, but not the red one yet. If he improves, there will be no problem.”

How close he is to being shown the “red one” is unknown; however, his Montreal error hasn’t helped the situation.

Who Could Replace Him?

One of the biggest things going against De Vries is that there are two drivers ready to replace him, with both being in fine form. Marko has stressed that should Red Bull decide to replace De Vries, that it won’t be for current development driver Daniel Ricciardo.

Red Bull aren’t planning on putting the eight-time GP winner into a race seat anytime soon, as two junior drivers are ahead of him in the pecking order. The favourite to replace De Vries is current Super Formula driver and Red Bull reserve Liam Lawson. If anyone deserves an F1 seat, it’s the Kiwi.

He incredibly won his debut race in the competitive Japanese series, which he sits second in after five races. Lawson also came close to winning his maiden DTM campaign last year, only to miss out through no fault of his own. Ayumu Iwasa is the other driver in contention to replace De Vries, with him sitting third currently in the Formula 2 standings.

Quite clearly then Red Bull do have multiple drivers capable of replacing De Vries if he continues to falter, with the Dutchman’s fate seemingly being in his own hands.

De Vries’ situation is simple, show considerable improvement ahead of the summer break and remain with the team until at least the end of 2023 or continue to falter and perhaps not return for the second half of the season.


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