Helmut Marko confirmed that Nyck de Vries is on a “yellow card” at AlphaTauri, and named the two drivers who are fighting to take his place should that become a red.
De Vries has not managed to hit the heights anticipated by Red Bull in the opening five rounds of his rookie F1 season with AlphaTauri, the momentum which he built up after an impressive debut for Williams at the 2022 Italian GP fading fast.
The Dutchman is one of only two drivers yet to score a point in F1 2023, the other being Williams’ rookie Logan Sargeant, and already there is some talk bubbling up over who could potentially take De Vries’ spot if Marko, the Red Bull and AlphaTauri advisor, runs out of patience.
One of the obvious names to come to mind was Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull’s current third driver, but just like Marko has ruled out Mercedes reserve Mick Schumacher, he also poured cold water on the suggestion that Ricciardo could be sent down to AlphaTauri.
So, who does that leave? Well, Marko has kindly named the two drivers in contention to take De Vries’ spot if he decides a driver change is needed.
“If the worst came to the worst, we would fall back on our pool of young talent,” Marko informed F1-Insider.com.
“We are talking specifically about Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa. Ricciardo is not an issue.”
So, as a potential huge opportunity awaits for one of these two Red Bull prospects, let’s take a closer look at the two drivers who De Vries will be hoping do not get a chance at AlphaTauri at his expense.
21-year-old New Zealander Liam Lawson has been a part of the Red Bull Junior Team for quite some time now having signed up back in 2019, making him second to only Dennis Hauger in the list of longest active servants.
And for a driver who in recent times has felt oh so close to the AlphaTauri scene, could his chance be coming at last?
Having finished P3 in the 2022 F2 Championship, Lawson was a contender alongside De Vries to step up to AlphaTauri for 2023, with Pierre Gasly preparing to head for pastures new at Alpine.
De Vries of course got the nod, which led to Lawson being sent to a category which once played a key role in Gasly’s breakthrough into the line-up at Red Bull’s second team, that being Japan’s Super Formula series.
Lawson made a huge, instant impact, pulling off the very rare achievement of winning his first Super Formula race on debut. He remains very much in title contention, and Marko’s reveal will serve only as further motivation.
Could AlphaTauri soon have an all-Japanese pairing? While Yuki Tsunoda’s rise through the ranks into Formula 1 was far more rapid, the more patient approach with Iwasa is paying off.
The 21-year-old has already positioned himself among the 2023 F2 title contenders, claiming a pair of victories during the opening four rounds of the campaign.
Iwasa on his day has proven to be an unstoppable force in race trim, and with a struggling AlphaTauri team desperately needing some points, Tsunoda impressing greatly while earning his two so far, a second driver who can get the job done in race conditions would be very handy indeed.
Iwasa is the highest-ranked Red Bull junior currently on the traditional F3-F2 route into Formula 1, though a dark horse to mention would surely be Hauger, who despite being P6 in the F2 standings right now with just one race win, has been unfortunate not to have more points to his name at this stage.