Midway through the 2023 season Nyck de Vries lost his seat at AlphaTauri and Daniel Ricciardo will be taking his place starting from the Hungarian Grand Prix.
As Nyck de Vries’ brief full-time Formula 1 career was abruptly ended, at least temporarily, by the person who gave him the opportunity he had been waiting years for, it proved to be difficult for the Dutchman to fit in a Formula 1 seat.
Do not forget that de Vries is a Formula 2 and Formula E champion, has raced in the World Endurance Championship and is the Mercedes F1 reserve. He is a flexible and competent driver, but as many drivers before him and many drivers after him will discover, sometimes it is not enough to survive the toughness of the sport.
It’s true that the odds were against de Vries from the beginning for a number of reasons, but it was also wrong for Helmut Marko to give him the drive in the first place and it was wrong to fire him now before the entire season was over.
De Vries is a casualty of Red Bull drivers’ previous and present dominance. The bar has been set exceedingly high by Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, and Daniel Ricciardo who will now take up residence in the AlphaTauri for the rest of the 2023 season “on loan” from Red Bull.
One driver raced for Toro Rosso and won, another won on his team’s debut and the third raced to three victories in his team’s inaugural season despite being Mercedes’ personal object to play with.
Anyone who is a part of the Red Bull pool is now judged by these three drivers, and if it is obvious that if they will not meet the standard, they are eliminated and the next cab off the rank is given a chance.
De Vries’ ideal situation to prove himself came in the 2022 Italian Grand Prix when he filled in on Saturday morning for Alex Albon who was suffering from appendicitis.
De Vries made his Formula One debut at Monza, possibly the track best suited to the Williams package. He qualified 13th, started eighth and finished ninth to earn points. Marko was intrigued because he needed to find someone to replace Pierre Gasly, who was headed to Alpine.
De Vries earned points on his Formula 1 debut by qualifying 13th, starting eighth, and placing ninth at Monza, a track that may be best suited to the Williams package. That caught Marko’s attention since he needed to find a replacement for Pierre Gasly, who was headed to the mountains.
Before de Vries was disclosed, it was anticipated heated negotiations would be on course over last autumn. Given that the team sought a non-rookie to partner Yuki Tsunoda, Marko’s selection which appeared to have been made on the spur of the moment was strange.
De Vries had successfully gotten Marko to like her by “jumping in something, driving the wheels off it, and delivering instantly.”
Marko recently explained that Red Bull Boss Christian Horner was opposed to signing de Vries in the first place, which was the closest he’d ever come to admitting that he got it wrong.
Starting the 2023 season was as challenging as it could possibly be for a rookie driver like De Vries. Up to the Spanish Grand Prix in June, Bahrain was the only conventional circuit; during the meantime street races were up for challenge with a massive five rounds namely; Saudi Arabia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Miami and Monaco.
De Vries was only allowed to participate in one practice session on his first trip to Baku in Grand Prix-caliber car considering Azerbaijan was also the first F1 sprint event of the season.
Fellow rookies Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant also mainly struggled throughout this early run. As the season returns to more accustomed tracks like the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone, those two drivers have started to put in some outstanding performances.
Sargeant finished 11th which was his highest finish to date and Piastri finished fourth at Silverstone on Sunday, only missing out on the podium due to the Safety Car timing.
Both of those drivers have now been granted the breathing room they needed to adapt and may attack with forward momentum. The same cannot be said about de Vries and AlphaTauri.
AlphaTauri has a history of struggling after regulation changes. The team only scored two points this year after falling from sixth place and 142 points in 2021 to ninth place and only 35 points in ’22.
Tsunoda finished 16th and de Vries finished 17th after the significant Silverstone upgrade failed. After the dismal start, outgoing team boss Franz Tost also said in Saudi Arabia that he did not trust his engineers.
Even a novice with de Vries’ level of versatility would not feel at home in that setting. When the boss makes such blatant attacks against his own employees, how can he possibly begin to succeed and buckle down?
This result was predictable in the end as soon as de Vries started to mutter that Marko was rushing him. De Vries went to the one team where he would not be given the chance to establish himself and it was sad for him. He deserved at least a full season to do so.
Marko has to understand that not all drivers are like batteries and can simply be plugged in and get used. Each is unique, and with a little tender loving care, they can blossom into competent and valuable drivers.