F1 analyst Peter Windsor is convinced that IndyCar star Alex Palou would thrive at AlphaTauri as the Red Bull junior team search for a long-term replacement for Nyck de Vries.
AlphaTauri announced on Tuesday that De Vries had been dropped before the halfway point of the F1 2023 season, with Red Bull reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo returning to action in his place on loan from next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Having been signed as Pierre Gasly’s replacement for this season De Vries had struggled for pace and consistency at AlphaTauri, failing to register a point and being outqualified by team-mate Yuki Tsunoda in eight of his 10 appearances.
Alex Palou the long-term Nyck de Vries replacement?
Palou was crowned IndyCar Champion in 2021 and comfortably leads the way in the 2023 standings after winning four of the opening nine rounds.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is acting as one of McLaren’s reserve drivers for 2023, having made his first appearance on an F1 race weekend with the team by participating in the opening practice session at last year’s United States Grand Prix.
Appearing via a recent YouTube stream, former title-winning Williams team manager Windsor says Palou’s performance in Texas was the mark of a driver who could excel if he made the switch to F1.
He explained: “When Palou was the driver of the McLaren in Austin last year, I said that of all the young drivers that had been given a chance in those two races by far and away the best-looking was Alex Palou.
“I’ve always thought he’s a short-corner driver, he looked that way in Formula 3 when he was driving for Campos, and it was Adrian [Campos] we should be thanking for Palou’s career. I really rate him. I think he’s really good.
“It’s a shame he’s not in Formula 1 right now because if he’s so successful in IndyCar he’s probably going to stay there and we won’t see him, but I think he’s really good.
“I think he would have looked really good in an AlphaTauri this year alongside Yuki Tsunoda.
“I really rate Palou. I think he’s very good.”
Windsor claimed De Vries could have rapidly emerged as a solid wingman option within a top F1 team had he dominated Tsunoda from the start of 2023, with the Dutchman tipped to return to Formula E, the all-electric series in which he was crowned Champion in 2020/21.
He added that AlphaTauri’s signing of De Vries was a mistake in the first place following his ninth-placed finish at the 2022 Italian GP, where he deputised for Alex Albon at Williams. De Vries’ unexpected opportunity with Williams came after he had participated in the first practice session at Monza for Aston Martin.
Windsor said: “He’s shown signs of being very good and his corners are relatively short – sort of Lando Norris-ish – and he hasn’t looked too bad alongside Yuki, although generally speaking Yuki is a shade quicker, which is a bit of a worry if you’re Nyck.
“I think he’s done a half-reasonable job but I don’t think he’s looked like Jackie Stewart in the BRM when Graham Hill was in the number one car. He hasn’t just come in and blown Yuki away.
“If he’d done that, you’d have been thinking: ‘Wow, this guy potentially could be a really good number two at a top team, at a Ferrari or a Mercedes or something.’
“But that hasn’t happened so there’s a question mark, I think, over his overall pace and he’s had a couple of silly things as well going on.
“I can’t see him getting another drive anywhere other than back in Formula E, to be honest, but I don’t know why they hired him in the first place. I don’t understand why they hired him.
“If it was just the euphoria of what he did at Monza, it was impressive but it wasn’t as unbelievably brilliant as people made out. It wasn’t that difficult to jump into two cars on one weekend. It’s not that difficult with these cars to go reasonably well.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a talented guy, he’s a nice guy, he’s intelligent – but I don’t think he’ll get another Formula 1 drive and he’ll probably go back to Formula E and do a very good job there.
“He might go to America, maybe. He’d probably do quite well there, I should think.”