AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries has started his F1 career in an underwhelming fashion, unable to match the efforts of his teammate – Yuki Tsunoda.
The Dutchman was described as a potential leader for Alpha Tauri when he was signed in 2022, with both Franz Tost and Helmut Marko singing his praises.
Tsunoda’s progress last season – whilst significant – was apparently not enough for the AlphaTauri team principal to view him as the team’s next “number 1 driver.”
However, De Vries has fallen well below expectations – suffering a (0-4) record versus his younger teammate in both qualifying and race.
A combination of uninspiring pace and costly errors have cemented De Vries as a driver in desperate need of a strong result.
Red Bull is notoriously ruthless with its young drivers, and the 28-year-old was not lacking in confidence before the season began – dismissing suggestions that he should be described as a “rookie.”
Perhaps he wants this title back, considering his lacklustre start to 2023 relative to his teammate.
Despite this relatively opening four rounds for De Vries, AlhaTauri’s Franz Tost has come to his defence:
“There is, as I always say, a learning process and a crash period,” motorsport.com quote him as saying.
“Because if drivers don’t crash, they don’t know the limit…
“As I always say, if a rookie is coming to Formula 1, he needs a minimum of three years to understand what’s going on here.
“Look to this race weekend format here in Baku. We have free practice one, and then you go into qualifying.
“And that’s problematic for young drivers and rookies is to get the most out of the track and tires in qualifying – that’s a really difficult exercise.”
On paper, these comments are not without foundation. Rookies need some time to adapt and acclimatise to the F1 circus.
However, whilst consistency and maturity are never a guarantee with youngsters, F1-caliber rookies will still show flashes of speed and excellence.
Even Yuki Tsunoda’s turbulent 2021 season, for example, saw the Japanese driver demonstrate excellent racecraft and racing instincts.
Additionally, Franz Tost did not make these reservations before the year began – outlining in testing that De Vries’ observations could take the team to a new level.
This is not to say that De Vries should be replaced mid-season or has no chance of proving himself.
However, the 28-year-old will need to demonstrate why he should be taking the seat which numerous Red Bull juniors will be eager to secure in the next twelve months.