Ricciardo set for AlphaTauri drive if De Vries continues to falter?
By Ian Parkes
Friday 12th May, 2023 - 1:19am
Daniel Ricciardo has had a seat fitting with the AlphaTauri F1 team, Speedcafe can confirm, which has naturally sparked rumours he could be about to replace struggling rookie Nyck de Vries.
In fairness, there is nothing untoward with Ricciardo’s visit to the Faenza factory in Italy.
As per his third driver role with Red Bull, he is also a potential backup for Yuki Tsunoda or De Vries at the races he attends should there be a need at AlphaTauri.
But De Vries’ poor form, especially, has placed unwanted pressure on his shoulders at such an early stage of his F1 career, with his results in stark contrast to those of team-mate Tsunoda.
After making a sensational debut in last year’s Italian Grand Prix in replacing Alex Albon at Williams after the Thai-British driver contracted appendicitis before qualifying, finishing the race in ninth, De Vries has under-delivered with AlphaTauri.
The former F2 and Formula E champion was signed by AlphaTauri on the basis of his Williams performance at Monza, yet the 28-year-old has failed to recapture such form.
De Vries’ best result so far has been 14th in the opening two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, before crashing out late on in the Australian Grand Prix.
The Dutch driver crashed again in qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix before clipping a wall early on in the race, breaking the suspension on the AT04 and leading to another retirement.
After the race, De Vries expressed hope he would turn a corner.
“There is positivity to take away from certain moments,” said De Vries. “We’ve shown since Jeddah speed in given moments, but for a lot of reasons and circumstances, we haven’t really been able to turn it into a concrete finishing result.
“That is very tough to swallow, very hard. But the only way forward is to continue to look ahead and just follow the process, and I personally believe things will turn around.”
In Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix, however, De Vries ran into the back of Lando Norris’ McLaren into the first corner, compromising his race in which he went on to finish 18th.
De Vries readily conceded it was his mistake as he “locked up both wheels” under braking.
The feeling is De Vries will be given the opportunity to prove himself at the upcoming start to the European season and the triple header that comprises Imola, Monaco, and Barcelona, winning at the latter two circuits during his F2 title-winning season in 2019.
Speaking in between De Vries’ two incidents in Baku, AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost stated that what his driver was experiencing was “the learning process and the crash period”.
He added: “Because if the drivers don’t crash, they don’t know the limit, and this is credit you must give them otherwise it doesn’t work.
“And there was no driver not crashing. I remember Sebastian (Vettel) in the first races came back, after the first lap, often without the front nose. That’s part of the game.”
It seemingly becomes a question of how much time De Vries will continue to be afforded if he continues to endure incidents over the next three races, in particular, or if there is no sign of any progress.
Speedcafe understands Red Bull has no plans to replace De Vries with Ricciardo, whilst AlphaTauri also has New Zealander Liam Lawson waiting in the wings for his opportunity.
As for Ricciardo, he has made it clear he is looking to return to F1 next season after opting for a year on the sidelines following his axe from McLaren last term in a bid to rediscover his passion and drive for the sport after two difficult years with the UK-based team.
After the seat fit at AlphaTauri, and given his extensive simulator work for Red Bull, he is at least fully ready to dive straight back in if required.
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