Nyck de Vries got one last chance with Alpha Tauri
Against the background of Nyck de Vries unsuccessful performances in the first five races of the debut season there were rumors about the imminent replacement of the Dutchman with another pilot from the Red Bull system. Who are the contenders and what are Nyck de Vries' chances?
The first impetus for the rumors of a replacement for Alpha Tauri main driver Nyck de Vries was the disappointing comments that more results are expected from the Dutchman than can be seen now. At the Italian Grand Prix in 2022, Nyck de Vries replaced the ailing Alex Albon at Williams and had a great result, ninth place in the race. This was the main impetus for the decision on his contract for the 2023 season. But in the new full season, the Dutchman's results have been falling: He finished 14th in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, 15th in Australia, then a pit stop in Azerbaijan and only 18th in the USA. Naturally, these results do not satisfy the team, especially against the backdrop of his teammate Yuki Tsunoda.
The next stage was the first opinion on who would replace de Vries. They called Daniel Ricciardo, the third pilot of the Red Bull, and, moreover, said that the replacement will happen at the next stage, the Italian Grand Prix at Imola! Allegedly, after the stage in Miami, Daniel went to the Alpha Tauri base in Faenza and underwent a seat fitting procedure. There was also the view that the decision to swap pilots was also influenced by the fact that the Dutchman could not bring new sponsors, who focused on supporting his compatriot Max Verstappen.
The following statement came from French journalists with reference to Helmut Marko. According to their information, Marko gave Nyck an ultimatum - either he makes progress in the next three races (Italy, Monaco, Spain), or he says goodbye to the team and leaves it. Of course, the last chance, very unpromising, since Imola will be held in the rain, and the chance rises sharply to simply get in the clog, even through no fault of his own. Then comes the urban, very narrow, especially for modern cars, the track in Monaco. Spain is more or less normal track, it is there de Vries will have the best chance to prove that he is worth something.
And a little later there was a confirmation of Helmut Marko himself on the situation with de Vries with his comments. He said there will be no substitutions in the next three races. Also Marko confirmed that he had a discussion with Nyck, who fully agrees with his opinion that the Dutchman must improve. Marko called the situation a "yellow card" for Nyck de Vries, and if the Dutchman does not improve, the yellow will become a red.
"Nothing will happen in the next three races. We have spoken to De Vries and he is of the same opinion as us: he needs to improve. The gap with teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who is doing extremely well, is too big. To speak in football terms: Nyck has received a yellow card, but not yet a red one. If he improves, a driver change will not be an issue,"
Marko's further words must have upset the Ricciardo fans. Because if de Vries is fired, someone from Red Bull's youth program will take his place. To be more specific, there are two contenders Ayumu Iwasa and Liam Lawson. Iwasa is finally having a good season in Formula 2. He is now third in the championship and not far behind leader Theo Pourchaire. At this time, Liam Lawson is very comfortable in Iwasa's homeland, Japan, in Super Formula. Both have enough in the super license to get to the start of the Grand Prix. Marco personally confirmed the information about the two young drivers and denied the rumors about Ricciardo.
"If it comes down to it, we would fall back on our pool of young drivers. This specifically involves Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa. Ricciardo is not an issue. "
In fact, this option of replacing the pilot in the middle of the season is very likely, especially for Red Bull, which already did something similar with Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon in 2019. To be honest, though, it's a very rash decision - five races is not that long, and maybe that's not enough time for the driver to reach his potential. It might be worth giving a chance at least until the end of the season.