Max Verstappen has blamed a “difficult” and “not the most competitive” AT04 for Nyck de Vries’ ousting, saying he needed a moment to shine and that just didn’t happen.
Last of the classified runners at the British Grand Prix, little did de Vries know that when he left the Silverstone circuit that Sunday evening it would mark his final race weekend as an AlphaTauri driver.
With his departure hastened by Daniel Ricciardo’s impressive lap times during a Pirelli tyre tests in the Red Bull RB19 two days later, de Vries was informed 11 laps into Ricciardo’s run that his F1 career was over.
Max Verstappen: I don’t think it really matters a lot when it happens
It’s a decision that has been criticised by his fellow drivers with Charles Leclerc calling it “very harsh” while Lewis Hamilton says that’s “how Red Bull works“.
Days after his axing, de Vries was spotted frolicking in the sea in the French resort of Cap Ferrat with Verstappen and Lando Norris, among others.
Having had time to commiserate with his friend, Verstappen was asked during Thursday’s press conference in Hungary if Red Bull should’ve given de Vries until the summer break to fight for his seat.
“It’s a tough one,” said the team’s double World Champion. “But you know, if the decision was anyway, of course, already made, then I don’t think it really matters a lot when it happens. But I mean, I think it’s just circumstances.”
Those circumstances were dictated largely by an under-performing AlphaTauri AT04 with even Yuki Tsunoda, in his third season with the team, bringing in just two P10s this season.
“I think we all know that Nyck he’s an incredible driver,” Verstappen continued. “He’s shown that in every single category.
“And, you know, when the car’s a little bit difficult… And I think anyway, you know, this new generation of cars, when you’re a rookie, it doesn’t matter of course what age you are or whatever, they are quite difficult I think to get on top of. Plus that the car probably is not the most competitive, it all made it a bit harder.
“And then I think you just sometimes need these one or two moments where you shine. You know where you maybe get a point or two points and yeah, these kinds of moments they didn’t happen. And yeah, then the team wanted to change something.
“That’s also a part of Formula 1, it’s sometimes just the wrong time or the wrong moment when you’re there and it doesn’t work out for you.”
Verstappen has backed de Vries to bounce back with the 2020/21 Formula E champion already linked to a return to the electric car series.
“People sometimes they seem to [think] if it doesn’t work out in F1 everything is lost, but it’s not,” said the Dutchman. “I mean, there’s so many great categories out there where you can have a great career and probably even more fun than some places in Formula 1 even. So I know that he has a lot of opportunities.
“I mean, I spoke to him last week, we saw each other. And, yeah, he will definitely find his feet again with a great team somewhere and a great championship. So I don’t think it actually is the end of the world because like I said, in endurance as well, there’s so many great races that you can be part of.”
Ricciardo too says he feels for de Vries as he knows all too well the feeling of being dropped having had McLaren call time on his stint with the Woking team two years into his three-year contract.
“For sure you feel for other drivers,” said the Aussie. “We put a life’s work into this. And so it’s one of those ones where I do feel for Nyck.
“I know in F1 he is not particularly experienced, but in motor racing he is. He is in his late 20s. So I feel like he’s mature enough to understand the sport. And if he still wants it to work, I think he can get back up and make something happen.
“So yeah, look at me a year ago, I wasn’t sure if I’ll ever race an F1 car again. And a year later, here I am. So things can happen. Of course, if he still wants it, keep his chin up.
“It’s like anything in life, you get knocked down, but it’s how you get back up. And I wish him well. And if I ever saw him on the grid again, then I’ll be happy too.”