Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko says its main Formula 1 outfit’s boss Christian Horner wasn’t convinced about signing Nyck de Vries to AlphaTauri – and feels Horner is currently being proven right.
Marko, a key figure in Red Bull’s driver strategy but one whose longer-term future in the role is currently unclear, oversaw the signing of De Vries, who had impressed F1 with an eye-catching grand prix debut as Alex Albon’s stand-in at Williams at Monza last year.
But the 28-year-old, a champion in Formula 2 and Formula E, has been second-best to Yuki Tsunoda this season, and has made a handful of high-profile mistake – most recently compromising his and Kevin Magnussen’s Canadian Grand Prix with a botched overtaking attempt.
Rumour suggested that De Vries was given the hurry-up to improve his performance as early as after the Miami Grand Prix, but Marko’s comments – made in conversation with the Inside Line F1 Podcast – are a significant step in public pressure.
Marko said that he and Horner “not often, but sometimes” disagreed on driver signings and, when asked to reveal the most recent example, he said: “The last one where I would say, Nyck de Vries. And at the moment it looks like he [Horner] is right.”
The remark maybe well have been tongue-in-cheek but Marko did not walk it back. “It’s AlphaTauri [not Red Bull], but as we are a big family I would say we are at least getting opinions.
“And he was not so big a fan of Nyck de Vries.”
Marko also confirmed that team boss Franz Tost, who himself is stepping away at the end of this year, lobbied for Mick Schumacher but that Schumacher’s long-standing Ferrari ties were seen as an obstacle and that De Vries was a better fit “in our philosophy that it is a junior team” – by virtue of having many fewer F1 starts, even if Schumacher is four years younger.
The Race says
We’ve heard and seen enough from Marko over the years to know he doesn’t pull punches. So while someone speaking on behalf of another always has to be treated with a bit of caution, it seems quite safe to believe Marko is accurately portraying any internal disagreement over Red Bull’s 2023 AlphaTauri driver decision.
Marko was in the De Vries camp, Horner seemingly wasn’t. Tost, it appears quite obvious, was keen on a non-rookie. Or at least, avoiding a conventional F1 rookie. Hence the interest in Schumacher and the enthusiasm around De Vries, who is vastly experienced outside of F1.
And Marko’s comments that, at the moment, it seems Horner was right not to be a De Vries “fan” essentially amounts to ‘I got it wrong’. Now, it would be too strong to say that Red Bull definitely regrets the final decision, and there is still time to turn things around, but Marko accepts De Vries has not worked out as hoped.
It’s Marko’s fault, for he made an impulsive decision seemingly based on one race: the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, De Vries’s superb F1 debut as a last-minute Williams stand-in. It remains the case that De Vries did an excellent job in that grand prix. But it’s also true that the evidence before that was lacking, at least in terms of him being a very good F1 option.
De Vries could have been a very solid choice. He still can be. But he’s short on time to turn it around. That was obvious already with the trend of results against Tsunoda. Someone like Marko coming out publicly with comments like this suggest Red Bull’s faith isn’t exactly at full strength.