Helmut Marko explains decision to drop Nyck de Vries for Daniel Ricciardo

Thomas Maher
AlphaTauri's Daniel Ricciardo and Nyck de Vries. July 2023.

AlphaTauri's Daniel Ricciardo and Nyck de Vries. July 2023.

Helmut Marko has said there were no obvious signs of improvement from Nyck de Vries over the course of his 10 races at AlphaTauri.

Nyck de Vries has become the latest casualty of Red Bull’s ruthless driver decisions, with the Dutch rookie axed from his seat at AlphaTauri after just 10 races in his first full-time F1 season.

De Vries, who failed to score a point in those 10 races, had come under increasing pressure due to a spate of incidents and accidents that drew the ire of Red Bull’s upper management and, with Daniel Ricciardo proving quick in his Pirelli tyre test outing with Red Bull, the call was made to parachute the Australian in and drop De Vries.

Helmut Marko explains why decision to drop Nyck de Vries was made

With De Vries, a former Formula E Champion with Mercedes, being somewhat older than most F1 rookies – the Dutch driver being 28 starting the year – the pressure was immediately on to perform.

But De Vries failed to live up to the expectations placed on him by Helmut Marko, who has explained in detail to Dutch publication De Telegraaf why the decision was made to drop him.

“We contracted Nyck because he performed great at Monza last year,” Marko said, referring to De Vries’ drive to eighth place at Monza last year, as he substituted for the ill Alex Albon at Monza.

“We expected him 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.

“He is 28 years old, has a lot of experience, and has also been able to gain a lot of knowledge as a test driver in various Formula 1 cars. You can’t compare him to a young rookie in my eyes.

“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.”

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Marko, a man known for his unrelenting, and occasionally brutal, honesty, said De Vries lacked the pace to be in the sport.

“We had to do something,” he explained.

“Why should we wait and what do two more races matter if you don’t see any improvement? Nyck is a very pleasant guy, but the speed just wasn’t there.”

Unsurprisingly, Marko doubts another F1 door will open for the ousted De Vries, and pointed him off in the direction of the World Endurance Championship.

“[Another F1 seat] will be difficult, I think,” he said.

“But at the same time, I do think he saw this coming. I think he can build a nice career in long-distance racing.”

Helmut Marko on why Daniel Ricciardo was hired

Daniel Ricciardo had apparently not impressed Red Bull’s management during his simulator sessions at Milton Keynes, with Marko even saying that Ricciardo had slowed down in his years away from Red Bull and that he had failed to keep up with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

But Ricciardo’s tyre test in the RB19 for Pirelli after the Silverstone race had Christian Horner reaching for the phone to call Marko, with the decision made very quickly to drop De Vries in order to give the seat alongside Tsunoda to the Australian – Ricciardo returning to the team with whom he raced for two seasons in 2012 and ’13 before stepping up to Red Bull.

Marko revealed how Ricciardo had fared during his time behind the wheel.

“His lap times were competitive, on three different tyre sets,” he said.

“Had Ricciardo not had the speed, we would have had to consider something else. But AlphaTauri is not in a good position and is last in the Constructors’ standings, so we have to do something to bring something about. That often happens after a driver change, Ricciardo brings new energy to the team.”

Ricciardo’s re-instatement at AlphaTauri could be seen as a way to put pressure on Sergio Perez as the Mexican has struggled to perform since May’s Miami Grand Prix, failing to reach Q3 in every single race since, but Marko said it’s a case of watch this space when it comes to monitoring Ricciardo.

”Checo [Perez] is second in the world championship, so it would make no sense to want to get rid of him now,” he said.

“Also at Silverstone, his race was good, but he needs to improve in qualifying.

“From Ricciardo, we also have to see first how he compares to Tsunoda. I think Yuki is underestimated by many people. The AlphaTauri is not the easiest car to drive, but Yuki has proven that it is possible to get good results.”

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