De Vries: Red Bull’s scapegoat

Timing is everything – as the old proverb goes. Nyck de Vries short and not so sweet Formula One career came to an abrupt end on the day Daniel Ricciardo first stepped back into an F1 car since his dismal two years at McLaren came to an end last year in Abu Dhabi.

Less than twelve month ago, De Vries shocked the F1 world when he stepped in for stricken Alex Albon in Monza and qualified his Williams car in theta ten going on to score points in his maiden Grand Prix.




De Vries championship winner

Of course the young-ish Dutch driver already had pedigree having won the F2 championship and then clinching the Formula E title for Mercedes before they with drew from that category of single seater racing.

Recently its transpired that there was a certain amount of disagreement amongst the Red Bull senior management over who should replace the departing Pierre Gasly. 

The ever dependable Helmut Marko – who is responsible for seven current F1 drivers making it to the top level of their sport – insists De Vries was the real deal. Christian Horner preferred the recently available Mick Schumacher.

Since their partnership with Honda began, Red Bull were under pressure to promote a Japanese driver into Formula One and eventually they acceded by recruiting Yuki Tsunoda.



Marko: De Vries ‘team leader’

Tsunoda was a driver in his F2 career who was either extremely hot or ice cold in his performance. The Japanese driver at times is super quick but lacks the cool calm head required for a Grand Prix race that could last two hours.

Despite Red Bull signing Yuki for a third season, Helmut Marko was clear in his mind that their new signing in De Vries was the better driver.

“Yuki is young and doesn’t have this experience and background, so [Nyck] should lead the team,” Marko confidently told Autosport. And of course that has not proven to be the case.

Red Bull have a significant headache caused by a number of problematic scenarios they are facing with the primary issue being the performance of their junior F1 team.

Ricciardo on track as new F1 drive announced



AlphaTauri built a poor 2023 car

AlphaTauri have built a poor F1 challenger this season and their independence in terms of design and build is soon coming to an end. The team will operate in future more like Haas does buying in as many components as the FIA rules allow.

Further, a significant number of the Faenza based team’s functions are being re-located to the UK with already in excess of 100 personnel operating from England.

The taken based team is currently last in the constructors’ championship and with the partnership of Tsunoda and the rookie De Vries looked no where near being able to climb the table.

So something had to give and it was the head of the likeable Nyck de Vries that was set to roll.



De Vries team mate comparisons

Yet when you look at the numbers De Vries’ performance relative to his team mate and other F1 team mate comparisons the Dutch driver was pretty decent for a rookie.

First up in terms of qualifying; De Vries made it out of the first qualifying session on four occasions, just one short of his team mate who is in his third year of Grand Prix racing.

On this metric De Vries is equal or better than Logan Sargeant (2), Guanyu Zhou (4) and Kevin Magnussen (3).

Further De Vries has matched of bettered the record of Lance Stroll (2), Sergio Perez (2), Oscar Piastri (1) and Logan Sargeant (0) in terms of the number of occasions they have out qualified their team mate.

Albon could get another F1 driver sacked



Finished GP on ave 2 places behind Tsunoda

Then if we take the number of sectors in qualifying session where one team mate has been quicker than the other, De Vries again stacks up well.

De Vries has achieved this 7 times over his team mate. But Sergio peered and Oscar Piastri have managed this just 6 times, Lance Stroll has delivered this 5 times and Logan Sargeant just four.

In terms of finishing position at the end of the Grand Prix, De Vries average finishing slot is less than 2 1/2 behinf=d his far more experienced Japanese team mate.

Finally, add into the mix that the majority of the circuits during his short tenure with AlphaTauri were new to Nyck who despite the longevity of his career in other Formula had never driven the flyaway tracks visited so far this year.



Tost: F1 rookies need “3 years”

All in all that’s a pretty convincing case for AlphaTauri retaining their newly recruited charge. Even more so when you consider the mantra uttered by the Faenza team boss repeatedly when questioned over the longevity of a number of his young Red Bull steeds.

When questioned over the future of Tsunoda before the summer break last year, Tost told the assembled press:

“You can’t expect that a rookie knows everything from the very beginning onwards. 

“That’s why I always say a young driver needs three years to understand this complicated Formula 1, because Formula 1 has become much more complicated than it was years before.”

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Red Bull: Other forces at work

So then sacking Nyck de Vries just 10 races into the 2023 season makes a mockery of this approach the AlphaTauri boss has always maintained.

However, there are other forces at work across the Red Bull Racing empire that have conspired to bring down the once hailed hero of Monza 2022.

Most prominent is the issue the team have with Sergio Perez. Having won two of the first four races and claiming he was ready for a season long battle with Verstappen for the drivers championship,  Checo’s year has imploded with the force of an interstellar black hole.

While the likeable Mexican has an agreement with Red Bull that provides adoption for either party to continue the relationship into 2024, that door from the Milton Keynes perspective is now firmly closed.



Tsunoda needs bench marking

Secondly, with Honda now having exited the sponsorship of Red Bull power units, Yuki Tsunoda is an unnecessary imposition the team cannot afford going forward.

However, given the awful performance of the AT04 this season, its difficult to measure how well Tsunoda is doing and whether his 2 points scored is good value for money.

Step up Daniel Ricciardo, eight times Grand Prix winner.

The loveable Aussie has decided he has sat on his hands for too long and now has decided he will return to the grid and drive for the worst team of 2023. This is something Ricciardo stated tie and again following his sacking he would not do.

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Ricciardo strange change of heart

After his sacking by McLaren was announced Ricciardo claimed he  would not “work my way up again” or drive just to “make up the number,” and now he finds himself at the lowly AlphTauri. 

This turnaround of events is simple to explain. Firstly, Ricciardo needs to prove he can still deliver and after the first day of the Pirelli tyre test in Silverstone this week, he made the first step towards proving this.

Daniel’s best time on the prototype runner was around 7 tenths off Max Verstappen’s pole position time last weekend and would’ve placed him eighth on the grid.

Ricciardo is about to solve a conundrum for the Red Bull team by proving one way or another that the three years invested in Tsunoda is worth continuing with.



Perez future in greater doubt

It is highly likely that even a sub par Daniel Ricciardo will reveal its time for the world champion outfit to part company with their Japanese driver.

Secondly, should Ricciardo deliver what is expected then it goes a long way to justifying the team ditching Perez at the end of the season and reuniting probably the most harmonious driver paring Red Bull have ever had.

And all of this leads to the conclusion that Nyck de Vries was merely a scapegoat found by Red Bull in their efforts to solve a number of other pressing issues before the end of the season arrives.

Given his relative performance against his team mate is hugely more impressive than Williams rookie Logan Sargeant, could it be De Vries finds himself next season at Williams where his Formula One hopes were created and his rookie race weekend became the stuff of F1 folklore. 

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