Harsh or fair? Red Bull’s mid-season Nyck de Vries sacking analysed

AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries on the phone in Monaco. Monte Carlo, May 2023.

Nyck de Vries on the phone in Monaco. Monte Carlo, May 2023.

Red Bull are at it again with the mid-season sackings! Nyck de Vries is out at AlphaTauri, and Daniel Ricciardo is in.

De Vries sadly saw the momentum from his superb one-off showing with Williams at the 2022 Italian GP fade away fast after taking his place on the grid full-time with AlphaTauri.

The Dutchman very much stumbled out of the blocks, and after going point-less in the opening 10 races, with several rookie mistakes thrown into the mix, Red Bull decided that Daniel Ricciardo’s Silverstone tyre test performance was enough to convince them that it was time for a change.

Daniel Ricciardo returns for Hungarian Grand Prix

The deal sees Red Bull loan Ricciardo to their sister team AlphaTauri for the remainder of 2023, and Ricciardo’s first outing with the Faenza squad since 2013 will arrive at the very next stop on the F1 2023 calendar, the Hungaroring, home of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Now, Red Bull have never been shy to make these brutal decisions when it comes to their driver line-ups, but was this one just a little too harsh on De Vries? Had he been given a fair shot, or have Red Bull made the right call to bail on this partnership?

The writers here at PlanetF1.com have had their say…

Thomas Maher: Sergio Perez struggles hastened Nyck de Vries’ Red Bull end

Given that Nyck de Vries’ signing by Red Bull seemed more like them being cornered into it after dropping Juri Vips and failing to convince the FIA that Colton Herta was worthy of a super licence, the Dutch driver has been up against it from day one.

Trying to impress the team at the same time while Daniel Ricciardo swanned around like the ex-girlfriend who went away for a few years “to find herself”, De Vries’ inability to keep pace with Yuki Tsunoda – the Japanese driver himself not clearly a super talent in his own right – meant he quickly drew the ire of Helmut Marko, who wasn’t shy about revealing Christian Horner hasn’t been on-side with the signing in the first place.

De Vries’ downfall has also been hastened by the fact Sergio Perez has fumbled the bag so badly this year. While not a particularly big issue this season as Verstappen reels off win after win in a dominant machine, a closer-fought fight would mean Perez’s struggles could have cost the team badly.

So getting Ricciardo into the seat for a trial run over the second half of the year is an excellent way to figure out whether the Australian has what it takes to support Verstappen better during next year. After all, Perez can be easily swapped over to AlphaTauri without breaking contract – Red Bull have always made it clear driver contracts are signed with the company, rather than specifically with the individual teams.

Had Perez performed better, De Vries might have been given more time to settle in. After all, 10 races are hardly any time for a rookie racer to find their feet, with even AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost vehement that three years is the amount of time needed to figure out a driver’s overall ability.

The problem for all Red Bull drivers is that they are compared to the generational talent of Max Verstappen. Inevitably, almost all will fall short. De Vries deserved more time to prove himself, but his relatively advanced age for a rookie (28), combined with Red Bull’s concerns over the lead team seat, means that there simply was no time for mediocrity. It’s harsh, but understandable, and De Vries has just experienced the ruthlessness that has made Red Bull so successful.

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 driver contracts: What is the current contract status of every driver on the 2023 grid?

Seven incredible private jets owned by F1 drivers: Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and more

Jamie Woodhouse: Nyck de Vries axing is harsh yet not surprising

Sadly for De Vries there were always two obvious factors working against him that were always going to be extremely difficult to overcome. The first of those was his ‘rookie’ status, and the second the fact that he was dealing with Red Bull.

Ordinarily, to decide after 10 grands prix that a rookie driver was not up to the task, having failed to score a point in arguably the slowest car on the grid, would be seen as a very hasty decisions to say the least, even by Red Bull’s standards.

But, De Vries was not the classic F1 rookie. He came with expectations. He is 28, has a Formula E and Formula 2 title to his name and had one, very impressive, grand prix appearance under his belt already at Monza in 2022, which put him on the Red Bull radar.

And the fact that it was Red Bull also worked very much against him, this a team made up of bosses who seemingly do not even know the meaning of the word patience.

So, was it a harsh move, yes? But, when Red Bull have shown this same ruthless streak with their own driver programme graduates over the years, think Pierre Gasly for a fairly recent example, the truth is as soon as De Vries came stumbling out of the blocks, the writing was on the wall.

Sam Cooper: Little to suggest Nyck de Vries was worth keeping round

If you take the emotion out of it, there is not a lot to suggest Nyck de Vries was worth keeping around.

He is one of two drivers yet to score a point and while the other one is 22, De Vries is 28. He is not a member of the Red Bull academy meaning the only money the team have put on him is the contract they handed him late last year.

He is a driver who appears to be somewhat of a political hot potato and a potential sore point between the two senior Red Bull figures in Helmut Marko and Christian Horner.

Finally, with Williams improving at Silverstone, there is a real risk that AlphaTauri could be cut off from the herd. While the decision to do it now and not the summer break seems surprising on the surface, dig a little deeper and you will see there are two grands prix and a sprint before then. If Red Bull stuck with De Vries, come July 31st they may be even further behind their competitors.

Red Bull is a team known for its ruthless decisions and while the ones made with Gasly and Albon could be considered a mistake, at this stage it seems unlikely the same will be said of De Vries.

Read next: Eye-catching data emerges from Daniel Ricciardo’s Silverstone test – report