Daniel Ricciardo’s test aside, Helmut Marko has revealed Nyck de Vries’ axing came on the back of declining results with his deficit to his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda’s growing instead of shrinking.
Signed as a “stopgap”, as Christian Horner put it, for the AlphaTauri team after they lost Pierre Gasly to Alpine, de Vries was always going to be a driver under pressure but given his success in other series, such as his Formula E championship title, Marko believed he would be up to the task.
He wasn’t, with de Vries failing to score a single point in his 10 races for the team, prompting Marko to make the call to sack him in favour of re-signing former driver Ricciardo.
‘Nyck de Vries’ deficit to Yuki Tsunoda actually got bigger’
Explaining his decision, the 80-year-old has revealed de Vries showed no signs of improvement over the course of his 10 races and in fact, his gap to Tsunado grew bigger.
“Stagnation set in with de Vries he told Sky Deutschland. “He hasn’t developed any further in terms of speed.
“It showed that the gap was significant, that it hadn’t narrowed, on the contrary, it actually got bigger compared to Tsunoda. Then there were a few accidents and then it was clear that no increase is to be expected in the future.
“In addition, AlphaTauri has slipped to tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship. We said something had to happen there.”
He added: “We thought we’d get a somewhat experienced driver who could ignite.”
AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost weighed in on de Vries’ exit in the Budapest paddock where he admitted it wasn’t an easy decision but with de Vries failing to step up at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone, two tracks he knows from other series, they had to make the call.
“This was also a very emotional decision, because we have a really good relationship with Nyck, I just spoke with him on the telephone last week, and he didn’t have an easy time with us,” he said.
“First of all, as a rookie – and this is generally for rookies, also for the future, the first half of the season is not so easy because they are racing at many race tracks which they don’t know, like Melbourne, Miami, Saudi Arabia.
“Then they come to Baku, where it’s a Sprint race, that means it’s only FP1 and then it’s already the qualifying. That means, nowadays, if a young driver comes to Formula 1, he really has to be prepared in the best possible way, which for me means at least 5-6,000km of testing, private testing with an old car. Like Alpine did it with Piastri, this is the way how to go.
“Coming back now to Nyck, it was difficult for him, also our car was not so competitive, and if a car is not so good, it’s even more complicated. I expected a much better performance in Austria and in Silverstone because both of these tracks, Nyck knew quite well – but the performance didn’t come up and we decided to change him.
“Also, thinking to the second half of the season where he doesn’t know Singapore, Japan, Mexico, Austin and Qatar, which would not have made it quite easy.”
The team instead signed Ricciardo as Tsunoda’s new team-mate after the 34-year-old impressed during a Red Bull tyre test for Pirelli with Tost hoping the driver can help push the team’s development forward even if he is only there, confirmed, until the end of the season.
“With Ricciardo we have an experienced driver in there, which also helps us to develop the car, to find out better where are the deficiencies of the car and hopefully to improve the performance of the car,” he said.
The Honey Badger’s return to the grid has been billed as an audition for Sergio Perez’s Red Bull seat.
Weighing in on that, Marko said: “We agree with Ricciardo that we’ll put him in the AlphaTauri by the end of the year and then we’ll see.”