Mark Webber has urged Red Bull to give Nyck de Vries time as he is confident the Dutchman will find his form amongst the “elite of the elite”.
Signed by Red Bull as Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri team-mate, Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko predicted ahead of the new season that the Dutchman would become AlphaTauri’s team leader ahead of Tsunoda given his many years of racing.
But instead the Formula 1 newcomer has struggled, involved in several first lap incidents while also crashing a few times.
Yet to get off the mark while Tsunoda has managed two top-ten results, Marko declared after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that De Vries was on a “yellow card”, leading to speculation he could be dropped with Daniel Ricciardo, or another of Red Bull’s juniors, taking his race-seat.
But having improved in Monaco, where Marko said he had “by far his best weekend”, and again in Spain where he was only a handful of seconds behind Tsunoda, Webber has urged Red Bull to give the driver time.
“Nyck has of course had a difficult start,” he conceded, “but he can be quite satisfied with the past two race weekends. I think he will get into it a bit better from now on.
“This is the elite of the elite but I think Nyck is there can get through this. I’m confident he can.”
The Aussie, who raced in Formula 1 from 2002 until 2013 and won nine grands prix, believe today’s Formula 1 is harder on rookies that it was in the past given the limited number of days of testing.
This year pre-season testing was all of three days with the team-mates having just one and a half days each. In-season testing is also a thing of the past.
“It’s so difficult these days for new guys coming into Formula 1. In my view, it’s harder now in Formula 1 than ever before for rookies,” Webber told Motorsport.com.
“There are almost no more testing opportunities, so that a lot of the learning process has to take place during the race weekends.
“For drivers who already have experience, that is of course a nice advantage. But for newcomers, Formula 1 in the first year or perhaps even for the first few years has become a tough class.”
De Vries has an allay in long-time AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost, who believes newcomers need at least three years to find their feet in Formula 1, an opinion that some pundits says is the only reason Tsunoda is still on the grid after a trying first two seasons in the sport.
As for De Vries, he was recently asked for his thoughts on Marko’s pre-Monaco criticism with the driver acknowledging that “people make mistakes. I make mistakes. We’re human, we move forward.”
He added: “It’s fair to say that I personally believe that I made a little bit too many mistakes.
“I do think there were moments that I was competitive and showing good potential, but I didn’t quite succeed to turn it into a result or execute a result at the end of the weekend.
“At the same time it’s still early in the season.
“When it comes to pressure, I think as a driver you always fight for your survival because, throughout your career, you always need to perform and deliver to continue your career forward successfully.
“So I don’t really think that is different now than at any other time in my career. But I can acknowledge that Formula 1 has been very different to any other championship I’ve been racing.
“I think that the most challenging bit is, first of all, the midfield is extremely tight and competitive and the margins are just very, very fine. In F1, I feel like everything is pushed so much towards the limit.
“Everything is developed and improved – both the package and the driver throughout the weekend – that there’s just nothing left on the table. And that approach is different.”