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Formula 1

De Vries could be replaced mid-season, Lawson tops the list

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
6 min read

Nyck de Vries could be replaced before the end of the 2023 Formula 1 season, as AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost claims his driver “decides” his own fate with his performances.

Though it is unclear how long De Vries has to turn his season around and secure his seat, The Race understands that Liam Lawson is now the likeliest candidate to replace him and that move could be made during the season if Red Bull continues to be dissatisfied with De Vries.

At the Red Bull Ring on Friday, Tost declined to rule out De Vries being dropped before the end of the year.

Asked by The Race if De Vries would be given the full year or could be replaced during the season, Tost replied: “Nyck decides. Not the team. If Nyck shows a good performance, why should we change him?”


F1 Grand Prix Of Austria Previews

De Vries was signed by Red Bull to partner Yuki Tsunoda at AlphaTauri this year in place of Alpine-bound Pierre Gasly.

It followed a surprise point-scoring debut with Williams at last year’s Italian Grand Prix, where De Vries was called up to replace Alex Albon on Saturday morning.

That performance impressed Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, who wanted De Vries – a Formula 2 and Formula E champion – over outgoing Haas driver Mick Schumacher and any of the Red Bull juniors.

Even though De Vries began his full rookie F1 season as a 28-year-old, with experience and success in a vast range of categories, Tost said he would still need time to adapt alongside third-year driver Tsunoda.

However, De Vries has struggled more than some at Red Bull clearly anticipated. He is yet to score a point, and although that is largely down to AlphaTauri’s lack of competitiveness, he has also been comprehensively outperformed by Tsunoda so far.

That has led to increasing pressure already, and ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix it was even admitted by Marko that another senior member of Red Bull’s F1 organisation – Christian Horner – is being proven right for doubting whether De Vries was the right choice.

At the same time, Red Bull junior Lawson is in title contention in the Japanese Super Formula series, having won races in Formula 2 last season, while multiple grand prix winner Daniel Ricciardo is back on Red Bull’s books this season as a third/reserve driver.


Liam Lawson

Of the available options, Lawson is understood to be the favourite to replace De Vries should Red Bull opt to act in-season – or even if it only makes a change for 2024.

Lawson is one of the junior drivers that was overlooked for De Vries in the first place but he has been extremely impressive in his first year in Japan’s top single-seater championship.

He is also said to have impressed both Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri during Friday practice and test outings last year.

Speaking about Lawson’s wider F1 credentials, not specifically to replace De Vries in-season, Tost said: “Liam has done a good job when he was driving for us last year in Abu Dhabi.

“And he is currently also doing a good job in Japan because it’s quite a tough championship over there.

“It’s a performance question. We have to find out.

“We have to see which driver is first of all available and matured enough and educated enough and ready to go to Formula 1.

“This we will see, currently nothing has been decided.”

That comment from Tost followed an answer to a question about whether Red Bull reserve Daniel Ricciardo is a real candidate for 2024, in what would be a shock return to the junior team he last raced for in 2013.

Ricciardo would be a hugely beneficial move commercially and comes with a high performance upside but he was burned by a difficult two-year stint with McLaren and Red Bull is not completely convinced he is the same driver that moved from Red Bull Racing to Renault in 2019.

He appears to be second in the queue behind Lawson and ahead of other Red Bull juniors.

Tost said the likes of Formula 2 drivers Ayumu Iwasa and Isack Hadjar are showing promise but if they are not ready then another profile of driver eschewing the team’s usual priority for young talent – like Ricciardo – could be considered a more appropriate choice.

Motor Racing Fia Formula 2 Championship Sunday Monte Carlo, Monaco

“The philosophy is quite clear: the performance decides,” said Tost.

“Of course, the philosophy is to educate young drivers. But if young drivers are not currently there… because there are coming some good young drivers – Iwasa is doing a good job, Hadjar is doing a good job.

“But it’s simply a little bit too early for them. I see them sooner or later in our team. But if the time is too late, maybe we find another solution.

“This has not been discussed so far. So far everything is like it is with our team.”


Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Canadian Grand Prix Race Day Montreal, Canada

Returning to a run of European races means De Vries at least has a series of familiar tracks to use to try to save his seat.

The Red Bull Ring/Silverstone back-to-back is followed by a week’s break and then a Hungaroring/Spa double-header before the summer break.

“In Formula 1, every driver has pressure and we will see what Nyck is doing here and how Nyck is doing at Silverstone because he knows these tracks,” said Tost.

“Let’s not forget that rookie drivers nowadays are in a really difficult situation. If you look at the first part of the season, most of the racetracks, they don’t even know.

“They haven’t raced in Melbourne before, they haven’t raced in Saudi Arabia, in Miami. Baku, maybe. But in Baku we had the sprint race. That means the weekends are flying away.

“And for the rookie drivers, this is really very, very difficult.

“Now at least, they come to racetracks which they know. This helps more.

“I always say that a driver needs three years minimum to understand this. And we will see now.

“I’m still positive that Nyck can do a good job. The rest, the results will show.”

De Vries’s home race, the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, is the first race after the shutdown but the suggestion is De Vries might not make it that far unless his performances improve.

Marko’s comments about him were put to De Vries ahead of this weekend in Austria.

“I think Dr Marko would appreciate it if I proved him wrong on track,” said De Vries.

“That’s all I feel about it and what’s within my control. So that’s it.”

F1 Grand Prix Of Austria Previews

He added: “There is no need to force anything.

“Whenever you are trying harder or trying to force something that is not kind of ready then it won’t happen and then mistakes will happen.

“The key is to just continue as we are and continue to focus on the job, remain patient, and then I think the potential is there.

“So, it’s just a matter of trying for things to come together.”

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