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Nyck de Vries

Could Ricciardo replace de Vries at AlphaTauri?

Speculation over the position of Nyck de Vries after a difficult opening few races has started to emerge, with reports that Daniel Ricciardo could potentially replace him if his performance does not improve.

De Vries Miami
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

After the first five races of the 2023 Formula 1 season, there are two drivers yet to score points: Logan Sargeant and Nyck de Vries.

With de Vries comes an experienced World Champion that should be capable of leading a team to regular points finishes.

His F1 debut with Williams at Monza last year was enough to convince Helmut Marko he was ready for the regular gig, after spending most of 2022 driving in Friday practice sessions. But, so far, the Dutchman has put in lacklustre performances and committed a lot of 'rookie' errors in the process.

His best results have been 14th in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, before getting caught up in a crash with Sargeant during one of the many red flags in Melbourne.

This culminated in Baku where he crashed on each day over the three day weekend, while things didn't improve in Miami when he ran into the back of Lando Norris at the start.

De Vries himself conceded that improvement to his form was needed, or else he risks getting booted out in what is often a cut-throat business for Red Bull.

"We're in regular contact, but that's very common to have contact and conversations with your bosses – so that's nothing different than usual I would say," he said when asked by RacingNews365.com about his relationship with Marko.

"I only look at myself and I feel like the performance has been kind of there since Jeddah, but it didn't quite always work out.

"That's just a matter of time. [In Miami qualifying] things kind of came a bit better together, and as long as we just keep on going, I believe that we have the performance to make that (his big break) happen."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

De Vries rated highly by Tost

AlphaTauri Team Principal Franz Tost has previously spoken about de Vries being a "wake up call" for the team's engineers when he first tested with them in Abu Dhabi last year.

Tost also praised his technical feedback given to engineers at the launch of the AT04 pre-season, and made comparisons to Sebastian Vettel after his tricky start to the 2023 season.

He spoke of the "learning process" drivers must go through and said that rookies tend to need a minimum of three years to understand F1.

But, with de Vries already having a World Championship under his belt and a Formula 2 title, is this process something Red Bull are likely to be patient with?

Marko already branded him as the "team leader" heading into the season, but so far Yuki Tsunoda has exhibited more leadership qualities in the races.

Ricciardo a potential replacement?

Behind the scenes, Daniel Ricciardo has been tipped as a potential replacement after visiting AlphaTauri's base in Faenza for a seat fitting.

While that in itself is not grounds for the team preparing for a potential mid-season change – Ricciardo is their main reserve driver for this year – it is understood that Marko has given de Vries an ultimatum to improve his performance at the upcoming Imola, Monaco and Spain triple-header.

If he fails to yield points or crashes at either of those events, it could mean that Ricciardo's return to F1 is earlier than expected.

Red Bull are no strangers to making swaps mid-season if they think it will be more beneficial. They did it in 2016 with Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen, which turned out to be the beginnings that set up this current period of domination for the team.

Although this would not be for the 'flagship' team, Red Bull have changed their approach to AlphaTauri as evidenced by their recent management shake-up for the first time in the team's 18-year history.

They clearly feel more is to offer from the AlphaTauri, given their access to resources and Aston Martin's remarkable turnaround, while the main Red Bull team turns a profit and the sister team continues to be run at a deficit.

Ricciardo has not been at the team since 2013, when it was known as Toro Rosso. But he has shown experience of being a team leader at Renault and McLaren, and could be an important figure during this transitional period.

De Vries getting dumped wouldn't necessarily write him off; there is a list of former Red Bull hopefuls who have still gone on to achieve success latterly in their careers, including Formula E champions Jean Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa, and World Endurance Champion Sebastian Buemi.

Alex Albon has still made use of his experience within the team to go onto new pastures (and still within the group), while Pierre Gasly has graduated to a works team with Alpine.

But, either way, it will be crunch time for the Dutchman as he looks to secure his short-term F1 future.

Also interesting:

Balve Bains is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to dissect the key talking points from the Miami Grand Prix.

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