After a challenging first season so far in Formula 1, it has rumoured that Nyck De Vries has been given an ultimatum – improve by the Spanish Grand Prix or be replaced.
Former McLaren and Renault driver, Daniel Ricciardo, has visited the AlphaTauri factory in Faenza to be fitted for a seat in their Formula 1 car. While this move is not necessarily out of the ordinary for a man that is Red Bull’s reserve driver, the timing has fuelled speculation that the Australian driver could serve as a replacement for Nyck De Vries, the Red Bull sister team rookie whom has struggled in his debut year.
Daniel Ricciardo has not driven a Formula 1 car since departed McLaren last year. However, this fitting combined with the team’s praise of Ricciardo’s work in the simulator, could spell trouble for the Belgian driver, should his struggles continue.
For the time being, the seat rightfully belongs to De Vries. It would be an unfair expectation that a driver new to the highest level of the sport would not have teething issues but with crashes in Australia and Baku, they team will expect a steep learning curve.
“As I always say, there is a learning process and a crash period because, if the drivers don’t crash, they don’t know the limit. This is a credit you must give them, otherwise it doesn’t work. And there was no driver not crashing. I remember with Sebastian [Vettel] in the first races, he came back on the first lap most often without the front nose. That’s part of the game.”Franz Tost, AlphaTauri team principal
Despite the support of Tost and many within the team, it has been reported that those higher up, especially Helmut Marko, expect substantive improvement in a matter of weeks, rather than months. The Spanish Grand Prix has been noted as a key date in this process with some saying that De Vries has been given this race as a hard deadline for improvement.
Working in De Vries’ favour, though, is the fact that the next few races emanate from tracks that he is familiar with; how he performs in Imola, Monaco and Barcelona will determine his future at the highest level of motorsport.
When looking at the performance of Nyck De Vries in his first season in Formula 1, it is worth comparing his performance to his teammate and, applying brutal honesty, Yuki Tsunoda isn’t doing that much better either. To begin the season, in Bahrain, De Vries finished 13th while Yuki finished 11th. De Vries’ 14th place in Saudi Arabia netted another 11th for his teammate. De Vries was one of 8 DNFs in Australia and while Tsunoda finished 10th, the reduction of the overall driver field cannot be ignored. Another 10th place for Yuki in Azerbaijan bested De Vries’ DNF, once again. While the Japanese driver has bested De Vries in all of the races this season, he’s not exactly lighting the world on fire and has been suffering his share of technical and mechanical issues, too. Perhaps the AlphaTauri team should look inward before looking at externally replacing a driver that has not yet found his feet in Formula 1.
What do you think about Nyck De Vries’ performance in Formula 1? Would AlphaTauri be justified in replacing him with Daniel Ricciardo? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.