One of two drivers yet to score a point this season, Ziggo Sport commentator Rick Winkelman is worried Nyck de Vries won’t be afforded the time to show Red Bull what he can do once he’s found his feet.
De Vries was signed by Red Bull to race for AlphaTauri after a stellar display at last year’s Italian Grand Prix when, on debut, he out-qualified Williams driver Nicholas Latifi before racing to a points-scoring P9.
Alas so far in his four races with AlphaTauri there has been little sign of that form with the driver culminating in a nightmare weekend in Azerbaijan.
Crashing in Friday evening’s qualifying, De Vries was then slowest of all in Saturday’s sprint shootout and failed to make notable gains in the shortened race where he tangled with his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda on the opening lap.
It went from bad to worse in the grand prix with the driver out on lap 10 having broken his AT04’s suspension at Turn 5 to bring out the Safety Car.
Although his team-mate Tsunoda is only up to two points, De Vries’ zero already has pundits worried about what comes next.
“Disastrous, of course,” Ziggo Sport’s Winkelman told Motorsport.com after Baku. “I think it’s annoying actually.
“I don’t wish him that. I wish him the best and good results, but he has a difficult start, that’s clear.
“Finally he has a Formula 1 seat, and rightly so, because that’s where he belongs. I think so.”
“But,” he continued, “we have often seen with Nyck that he needs some time to get going.
“Even when he started in Formula Renault. In all those entry-level classes, he always needed some time to get going. After that he was the absolute top.
“Only you don’t really get that time in Formula 1, so I’m a bit worried about that. I hope he can turn the tide soon, because it is true again: a good weekend in Miami and everything that happened in Baku is forgiven and forgotten.
“But it remains to be seen.
“Of course it was a lousy weekend, and he will be the first to admit it. Hopefully he learns from that. He certainly learns, he doesn’t make those mistakes again, because he belongs in Formula 1, I think.”
Winkelman is backing De Vries to bounce back, acknowleding the 28-year-old needs a better performance in Miami to silence his detractors.
“It’s part of top sport, dealing with setbacks,” he added. “He’s had that in the past too, setbacks. He’s always handled that well, he’s always come to the top and [has] won championships and victories.
“I am sure that his next weekend will be better than what happened in Baku and that he will really take steps.”
The Dutchman, though, admits he expected better from De Vries.
“I had hoped for a bit more, I thought he would take Tsunoda. For the time being, that is not yet the case if you look at the bigger picture.
“But now and then there are those bright spots. That free practice in Baku was fine, sixth fastest. Now I know that it was a free practice, but those are the things you have to hold on to for a while.
“Let’s hope it happens more often. He can do it, but it may take some time.”
But, he added: “I just don’t know if he will be given that time in Formula 1.”