Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has spoken out on Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s “very harsh” sacking of Nyck de Vries following a tough start to the F1 2023 season.
De Vries was signed as Pierre Gasly’s replacement for this year but has been dropped after just 10 races after failing to score a point and struggling for pace and consistency alongside team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.
The Dutchman has been replaced by eight-time grand prix winner Daniel Ricciardo, who will make a sensational return to racing at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix after spending the first half of the season on the sidelines as Red Bull’s reserve driver.
Charles Leclerc saddened by Nyck de Vries axing
Addressing the media at the Hungaroring on Thursday, Leclerc revealed that he has reached out to offer his condolences to De Vries and feels Red Bull have acted too quickly in dropping the 28-year-old.
He said: “I don’t know, I think it’s obviously very difficult for Nyck. I sent him a text yesterday because it’s I’m sure that it’s a difficult one to take.
“I’m sad. I think it’s too harsh for Nyck, but obviously also happy to see Daniel back in the paddock. It’s part of Formula 1 but it’s true that it’s very harsh for Nyck.”
Leclerc’s words were echoed by reigning World Champion Max Verstappen who, while glad to see his former team-mate Ricciardo return to the grid on a full-time basis after shining in the Red Bull B19 car in a recent Pirelli tyre test, is disappointed for fellow Dutchman De Vries.
He said: “I spoke already quite a bit with Daniel last week, I could see he was very excited also after driving our car. So of course it’s great to have Daniel back on the grid [and] within the family.
“Of course, on the other side, I’m also good friends with Nyck so it’s also sad to see him go. But unfortunately, that’s also how this world works. I don’t think there are any hard feelings between the drivers, that’s just how it goes.
“But you have to move on. There are a lot of other opportunities out there – it’s not only Formula 1 in this world of racing – so I’m sure everyone will land back on [their] feet like normal.
“You move on and now the opportunity is here with Daniel again. He had his little reset – I think including Vegas – so I think he’s ready to go again.”
Valtteri Bottas, the Alfa Romeo driver, admitted he was shocked by Red Bull’s decision but claimed the team have form for making mid-season driver changes.
And he has predicted that Ricciardo, 34, is potentially in for a tough start to his AlphaTauri career with two races in quick succession before the summer break.
“Quite surprised, actually,” he said. “I’ve been following [whether] there’s been talks or not but I thought it was quite sudden and already before the summer break.
“But it’s not the first time Red Bull has made decisions like this and they obviously follow their view, what is the best.
“Obviously, really [a] shame for Nyck. It was quite a short first rookie season unfortunately, but also then it’s nice for Daniel. He clearly wants to be back and now he’s got to use [the] opportunity. That’s F1 sometimes, pretty cut throat.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an easy first couple of races for him because it’s been an intense season – everyone’s really used to the cars, the gaps are small – but he’s a good driver so for sure he will figure it out at some point. But let’s see.”