Red Bull and AlphaTauri do not exactly have a track record for patience, as Nyck de Vries is not the first driver to be replaced midseason.
Many people in the motorsports community are celebrating Daniel Ricciardo’s return to Formula 1 with AlphaTauri, the sister team of Red Bull Racing. But we know one person who won’t be celebrating the news: Nyck de Vries.
AlphaTauri has just recently announced that Daniel Ricciardo will be taking the team’s second race seat to replace F1 rookie Nyck de Vries with immediate effect. This means that as early as the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ricciardo will be back on the grid.
“It’s great to see that Daniel hasn’t lost any of his form while away from racing,” Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said. “We are very excited to see what the rest of the season brings for Daniel on loan at AlphaTauri.”
Many F1 fans are happy to see the joyful character that is Danny Ric back with AlphaTauri, the team that kickstarted his career when it was still Toro Rosso. But it’s difficult to ignore the fact that the team dropped Nyck de Vries after just 10 races.
Nyck de Vries’ lackluster performance
It’s no secret that Nyck de Vries has been struggling in Formula 1. His best finish in 2023 was 12th, and in 10 races, he suffered two DNFs, accumulating zero points. He sits at the bottom of the drivers’ standings.
The Dutch driver was in a tough spot to begin with. As a former Formula E and F2 World Champion, and at 28 years old, expectations were high. And with AlphaTauri sitting all the way at the bottom of the constructors’ standings, something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be Yuki.
Yuki Tsunoda hasn’t performed that much better than his teammate Nyck, only scoring two points in the same span of time. But to the Japanese driver’s credit, he outperformed de Vries on nearly all occasions this year.
So after 10 races as a Formula 1 driver for AlphaTauri, Nyck de Vries has been replaced by Daniel Ricciardo, a fan favorite and a proven racer with eight Grand Prix victories and 32 podium finishes to his name, surely in an attempt to gain more points with 12 races left on the calendar.
This is a tough pill to swallow but put plainly, this is a job. Nyck wasn’t meeting expectations, so he found himself in an unfavorable situation, as would be the case with most other jobs anywhere in the world. And as an AlphaTauri driver, he must have known that the expectations were perhaps higher than usual, as he isn’t Red Bull’s first midseason sacking.
AlphaTauri and Red Bull’s track record
This isn’t the first time Red Bull and AlphaTauri have moved drivers around in the middle of a season. In 2006, Christian Klein was replaced by Robert Doornbos; Sebastian Vettel debuted for Toro Rosso after replacing Scot Speed in 2007; and Pierre Gasly was replaced at Red Bull by Alexander Albon in 2019.
These don’t account for all the switcharoos that Red Bull has pulled over the years. But perhaps the most famous replacement was when Max Verstappen took Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull seat midway through the 2016 season. Max made his debut with the team in the Spanish Grand Prix and went on to win the race.
The swap worked out in Max’s case in the best way — a Grand Prix victory on his debut. And he would go on to win two World Championships and is currently in a strong position to go for his third as of writing.
This may be what Helmut Marko, advisor of the Red Bull Formula 1 teams, is looking for in all his drivers. Perhaps not Grand Prix wins exactly, but he does expect results, which isn’t unreasonable. And because Red Bull has seen success with a midseason switch before, this has become an attractive option for a team who desperately needs to get out of the weeds.
But Lando Norris may have said it best at the recent British Grand Prix: “[Max] always ruins everything for everyone.” An exaggeration, maybe, but don’t get us wrong — we don’t mean it in a bad way. In fact, we mean the opposite. To us, this is simply an indication that we may be witnessing a generational talent in Max Verstappen, against whom many will inevitably be compared.
But how much should we have expected from a rookie driver in 10 races?
The weight on an F1 driver’s shoulders
Last season, AlphaTauri finished second-to-last in the constructors’ standings — a disappointing finish that they wanted to bounce back from. Thus, they brought on Nyck de Vries, a former Formula E and Formula 2 World Champion.
However, just as Daniel Ricciardo himself struggled when he moved from a Red Bull car to a Renault car in 2019, as a rookie, de Vries struggled too. And in Ricciardo’s case, he was moving from one F1 car to another, while Nyck was moving between race categories, a more challenging jump.
What some may forget is that although expectations are high for all drivers, there is a learning curve that comes with this job. Even Max Verstappen in his younger years would drive recklessly, sometimes bending the rules, and find himself in tangles with other drivers.
But Nyck de Vries did not get a full season to overcome this learning curve — an opportunity most F1 rookies get. Yes, he was underperforming. But if he’d been given a little more time, he might have eventually been able to show off the skills that earned him his other championships. So after just 10 races, this replacement may be premature.
But at the end of the day, Formula 1 is a business, and Nyck just wasn’t cutting it for AlphaTauri. It is very unfortunate for the Dutchman, whose talent may now be shadowed by this sudden sacking. But with only 20 spots on the grid, F1 should be among the most cutthroat businesses in the world, especially with the abundance of talent that’s on the market.
Now, the responsibility to help AlphaTauri climb the ladder falls upon Daniel Ricciardo.