Red Bull find rare support for decision to axe Nyck de Vries for Daniel Ricciardo

Michelle Foster
AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

AlphaTauri's Nyck de Vries at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Criticised for their “brutal” sacking of Nyck de Vries, Felipe Massa believes Daniel Ricciardo’s first two races back with AlphaTauri prove Red Bull made the “correct change”.

Rookie driver de Vries was given the boot by Red Bull two days after the British Grand Prix, replaced by Ricciardo following the Aussie’s impressive lap times during the opening hour of his Pirelli tyre test.

It was a decision that was largely criticised with drivers and pundits saying de Vries should’ve been given more time while former Red Bull World Champion Sebastian Vettel called it “brutal”.

Red Bull made ‘a positive change’ for AlphaTauri

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko made no apologies for the decision, revealing de Vries hadn’t improved during his 10 races, leaving the team with little choice as they didn’t see a future with the driver.

Out went de Vries, and in came Ricciardo with the Honey Badger beating his teammate Yuki Tsunoda in his first race back in Hungary before a track limits violation caught him out in qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix and hampered his chances on a Sunday in which Tsunoda scored a point.

Massa has been impressed with what he’s seen so far.

“In the first race, in my opinion, he had a good race,” the former F1 driver told Motorsport.com of Ricciardo’s return to the grid. “He got a good result right away, getting in front of his teammate, having a good pace in the race.

“And in the second he would have a better classification, but he ended up cutting the corner on his best lap [in qualifying] and ended up having the time canceled, so he started back there.

“If he hadn’t, he would have gone ahead. In the race, I think he was reasonable.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

All the mid-season driver swaps Red Bull have made in their F1 history

Revealed: The shortest F1 careers this century in the brutal world of Formula 1

And that, Massa says, proves Red Bull made the right choice.

De Vries in 10 races never out-qualified Tsunoda while his best result was a 12th-placed finish in Monaco with the driver unhappy to press on from there.

That was a surprise for Massa as he expected more from the 2020/21 Formula E champion.

“In my view, it was the correct change, from what de Vries was showing,” he said. “In fact, I expected much more from him for the driver that he is. Something didn’t fit, but I think the change was correct.”

The Brazilian is backing Ricciardo to succeed with AlphaTauri, saying he hopes the Honey Badger will be on the grid for “many years” to come.

“I hope that Ricciardo stays there for many years because he is a very important player in F1,” he said. “He is a guy that everyone likes, he is a guy who has a very important charisma, with many fans.

“Without a doubt, it is a positive change.”

Read next: Sergio Perez told to accept he’s a ‘Rubens, he’s not a Michael Schumacher’