Daniel Ricciardo will replace Nyck de Vries at Alpha Tauri
Rumors of Daniel Ricciardo’s return to Formula 1 have been dragging on since last year, when McLaren abruptly tore up his contract. Many sports journalists called the date of his return 2024, or even 2025/2026. But Red Bull, where Daniel returned as a third pilot, had their own plans. Not even half a year passed, as Red Bull announced the dismissal of Nyck de Vries. What was the impetus for the replacement of the young Dutchman to the experienced Daniel Ricciardo?
In mid-May we have already written about the fact that Red Bull gave Nyck de Vries the last chance, which he could use in the course of three Grand Prix (Monaco, Spain, Canada). In Monaco, de Vries finished the race in 12th place, from which he started. The result is not bad, especially considering that his teammate became only fifteenth, losing six positions. In Spain, Nyck re-qualified his partner, but ended up only fourteenth. By Canada all the impetus from the words about the last chance has dried up, and Nyck again found himself in the tail of the peloton, which, of course, did not like the management. Instantly drop off the Dutchman no one decided to drop off, but the tension in the team was growing.
In fact, Nyck had quite a serious support, namely Franz Tost, the head of the Alfa Tauri team.
«I have always said that in our time it is much more difficult for drivers to make their debut in Formula 1. Why? Because at the beginning of the season they perform on tracks they don't know. [...] I told Nick to stay focused and confident because we all know he can do his job well. He won in Formula 3 and Formula 2, became world champion in Formula E. Such results mean that De Vries knows how to win races and titles.»
And many were in agreement with this, because it is naturally harder for newcomers because of the lack of experience and knowledge of the tracks. But the management above didn't care much about this fact. Even the most reputable publications and journalists began to speculate about who would take de Vries' place after the summer break. The most obvious option was Daniel Ricciardo.
On July 12, close to evening, Viaplay commentator Allard Kalff, who is very close to Nyck De Vries' family, posted a tweet saying that Nyck was leaving Alfa Tauri... already. Following him, Erik Van Haren, another journalist, stated that Ricciardo will replace the Dutchman already in Hungary, without waiting for the summer break! A few minutes later, the correspondent of the Dutch version of Motorsport Ronald Vording reported that in Red Bull and Alpha Tauri will not delay and officially confirm the departure of Nick De Vries today, within an hour.
And so it happened. Alpha Tauri posted an Instagram post and welcomed Ricciardo to the team, labeling the Australian's lease from Red Bull. Let's break down the motivations that prompted this shift.
To begin with, in a certain period, three pilots of the program Red Bull Nyck de Vries, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda was given the opportunity to show their skills on simulators and the track, just in order to accurately decide to change the pilot. According to the simulator, Nyck did not even reach Tsunoda's time, let alone Ricciardo’s, and later the same was confirmed in track conditions. Daniel also tested for Red Bull at Silverstone, and according to some data he set a time that would have been enough to occupy the front row of the starting field of the British Grand Prix. On which tires and with how much fuel this was done is not reported. This "check" and the tests were the main impetus for the decision to replace the driver immediately, already at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
"It is great to see Daniel hasn't lost any form while away from racing. We are excited to see what the rest of the season brings for him on loan at AlphaTauri." - Christian Horner
“We expected him [Nyck] to be at least equal to his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda this year, but that was not the case. Actually, he was always three-tenths of a second slower. We didn’t see any improvement. […] At the end of April in Baku, he started the weekend well and I thought he was going to perform better, but then he crashed again. He, unfortunately, didn’t do one super lap that we were amazed by.” - Helmut Marko
Also many people know that Alpha Tauri have recently announced a rebranding of the team in the near future, and sponsors see Daniel Ricciardo as more attractive from a marketing point of view, as no such sponsorship is coming from de Vries, mostly due to the fact that all the Dutch sponsors have thrown their energies into Max Verstappen.
In addition, I'd like to add the theory that the replacement of Nyck de Vries was not only due to his lackluster results, but also due to the declining results of... Sergio Perez! Conditionally speaking, the management of Red Bull very gently hinted to the Mexican that allegedly "look, we literally in two days replaced de Vries with Ricciardo, so you can wait for the same". But Checo is safe for the moment, with Marko confirming that they don't have a replacement for Perez just yet. At the very least, they need to see what Daniel can show.
In conclusion, it is worth mentioning another rumor floating around the motorsport community about Liam Lawson. At the moment, the pilot of the youth program of Red Bull spends a terrific season in the Japanese Superformula, and this fact just like that knocked him out of the list of contenders for the place of de Vries. They decided to just leave him there to keep the pace and attitude up, especially as the Alfa Tauri car itself leaves a lot to be desired. Liam could drive an Alfa Tauri as a combat driver in either 2024 or 2025 (100%). Why? Because Red Bull is pretty sure Honda will take Tsunoda to Aston Martin, so they have no plans for him. By next year only six of the 12 drivers in Red Bull's youth program will be left, because Red Bull is tired of investing in "hopeless" pilots.
This is how the fate of once incredibly talented Nyck de Vries, already familiar to everyone Daniel Ricciardo and some other members of the program Red Bull.