Formula One is not a place for the faint hearted with just twenty drivers at any moment in time able to participate in the highest level of motorsport, the bar is set high and performance is all that matters.
Ten years ago a young Dutch driver was offered a place in the Red Bull academy yet mysteriously turned it down. Having won the Renault 3.5 junior world series, Robin Frijns had earned the right to drive the RB8 in the 2012 test in the Abu Dhabi.
Red Bull “treat you like a dog”
Frijns was set to be offered a place at the Red Bull academy which at the time had produced F1 drivers like Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Jaime Alguesuari, Sebastien Buemi and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Yet Frijns in a surprise outburst told de Telegram, “I twice said no to Red Bull.”
“You cannot decide what you want to do, and if you don’t do what they want, you’re out. They treat you like a dog,” he insisted.
“In my career I’ve always made my own choices and I want to continue to do that. I need people around me who I can trust, and so Red Bull is not for me, even though I have won more than Vettel did before he made his name in Formula One.”
RBR ruthless with young drivers
At the time Frijns was about to be promoted to reserve driver for Sauber who often took Ferrari academy drivers. Then in 2014 he moved to the doomed Caterham team as their reserve but never made it into Formula One.
Fijns became a journeyman motor racing driver competing across the world in a variety of series, though he did eventually win the Formula E title and win the LMP2 category at Le Mans.
Alguersauri, Buemi and Vergne did make it to F1 and into the Red Bull junior Toro Rosso team, though their careers in the sport were short and they too found success in other racing categories.
As demonstrated this year with Nyvk de Vries, becoming a Red Bull driver is a tough existence. Dr. Helmut Marko who oversees the up and coming drivers can be a ruthless task master, but then he is responsible for around a third of the current F1 drivers on the grid and for seven world titles claimed by Sebastian nVettel and now Max Verstappen.
Expectations “high” for de Vries
Whilst Nyck de Vries was not part of the Red Bull driver programme, Red Bull recruited him for AlphaTauri as a series of opportunities fell their way.
Alpine were desperate for a driver after the debacle which saw them lose Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri within 24 hours hours and they requested Red Bull release to them Pierre Gasly.
Gasly was going no where within the Red Bull structure. He had been promoted for half a season to race alongside Verstappen but deemed not good enough and returned to Red Bull’s junior F1 team.
Mercedes had release their highly rated reserved driver de Vries and Red Bull presumably thought they could learn a thing or two from the driver about their arch rivals operation by recruiting the young Dutch driver.
“F1 Team Leader” badge for de Vries
Further, de Vries had an impressive debut for for Williams when he was forced to stand in for the stricken Alex Albon at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix and scored points for the back of the grid F1 team on debut.
However, George Russell has called out Red Bull’s handling of de Vries who he knew well from his time as a Mercedes junior himself.
Having signed up de Vries for this year, Dr. MArko went on record stating:
“Yuki is young and does not have the background and experience that Nyck has,” he said speaking to Dutch Motorsport.
“We will see how it goes next year, but looking at his experience and his personality, then De Vries has to become the team leader of AlphaTauri.”
Russell calls out Red Bull
Russell believes these comments from Marko were inappropriate and added unnecessary pressure on his former junior driving colleague.
“I wouldn’t have expected it in any other team,” Russell said.
“Obviously we know how Red Bull operates and you need to respect how they do things,” added Russell making a reference to the ruthlessness of Red Bull’s reputation when it comes to handling their drivers.
“I mean, I didn’t follow Nyck closely during his time at AlphaTauri, but I saw the reports and things that Helmut said and it is a difficult place to go if you’re lacking confidence.”
Nyck “got too soon” says Russell
By claiming De Vries was the natural leader of the team despite Tsunoda going into his third season in Formula One, Russell thinks was a ridiculous thing to say of an F1 rookie driver.
“For sure, they didn’t help him to gain confidence starting the season by saying he’s going to be the leader of the team for he is a rookie.
“It doesn’t matter that he is 27 or 28 years old, he is a Formula 1 rookie and you can’t go in telling the rookie that you are the leader of the team just because you’ve raced in more championship than your teammate.
“He was in a difficult position from when he started so I do feel bad for him. He is Formula 1 level, but didn’t get the opportunity that he deserved,” concluded Russell.
De Vries “sacrificial lamb” to solve Perez problem
In all likelihood, De Vries was not booted out of AlphaTauri because of his results predominantly at circuits he had never raced before. It was the growing political situation surrounding Sergio Perez which decided his fate as Red Bull needed to properly evaluate Ricciardo in a current F1 car as a potential replacement for their failing Mexican driver.
Perez did return to some kind of form for the final two races before the summer break, though once again was shambolic in qualifying and the Grand Prix held last weekend in the Dutch town of Zandvoort.
Having broken his hand in practice at the Dutch GP, Ricciardo willow at best have eight more races this season to prove he is worthy of his old seat back along side Max Verstappen for 2024.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 28, 2023