F1: Who could replace Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri?

It is no secret that Nyck de Vries is well and truly in the hot seat at AlphaTauri this season – but who might the Red Bull junior team bring in to replace the Dutchman?

After taking points on his F1 debut for Williams in 2022, many members of the paddock expected De Vries to be a great get for AlphaTauri. Sadly, thus far, this has not been the case.

The 28-year-old’s teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, has consistently outperformed him throughout this season. Tsunoda has an 8-2 advantage in both qualifying and race head-to-head. He is also the only member of the team to have scored points in 2023.

Meanwhile, De Vries is one of just two drivers on the grid who is yet to earn a top-10 finish.

While some expect Red Bull/AlphaTauri to give the Dutchman more time to acclimate to F1, others believe that the team is already plotting to replace De Vries. For instance, on Sky Germany, former racer Ralf Schumacher suggested that the Faenza squad has already made plans for a driver swap.

“The decision has been made, I’m pretty sure,” said Schumacher, via PlanetF1. “He had his highlight in Monza last year and was in the right place at the right time. It’s a shame for him that he probably can’t drive Zandvoort – but also good for Daniel Ricciardo and the team.

“Nothing is fixed, but everything is possible.”

So, if AlphaTauri were to pull the trigger on a seat change, who are the contenders?

Drivers who could replace De Vries at AlphaTauri: the ex-F1 candidates

The name on everybody’s lips to take over De Vries’ drive is none other than Daniel Ricciardo. As Red Bull’s current third driver, and a former Toro Rosso and RBR racer, he is well affiliated with the brand.

Additionally, being an eight-time Grand Prix winner, he brings an elite level of experience to the ailing team.

However, his last stint in F1 – with McLaren in 2022 – was a very lacklustre affair. Ricciardo does not really fit with the AlphaTauri “style” of being a launchpad for young Red Bull academy drivers to get a shot in Formula 1, either.

The Australian could be a prime option for a mid-season change, though, at the very least as a stopgap until 2024.

Alternatively, Mick Schumacher is another potential driver who could return to the grid. Currently, the German is the test driver for Mercedes. There is little chance of earning a seat there, though, unless Lewis Hamilton retires. So, what about AlphaTauri?

Team boss Franz Tost recently revealed that he wanted to bring in Schumacher to replace Pierre Gasly for 2023. Maybe, this time around, the team will not pass up the opportunity again.

Although Red Bull’s academy system may have something to say about that.

RBR academy prospects

Alongside Daniel Ricciardo, the other main name swirling on the driver market is Liam Lawson. The former F2 race winner, who also serves as AlphaTauri’s reserve driver, competes in the Japanese Super Formula series.

In this championship, he has taken two wins from five races and sits second in the standings. The Red Bull youngster’s supreme pace across multiple disciplines may see him finally earn a shot at F1.

And what about F2? Ayumu Iwasa has shown great promise with a few wins and a current third place in the championship. Other options such as Zane Maloney and Enzo Fittipaldi are possible RBR academy talents, too. They are much more unlikely, though.

Away from F1, rumours of Helmut Marko favouring IndyCar star Alex Palou for the seat are gaining traction, too.

What’s the verdict?

Given the limitations of the AlphaTauri car this season, it seems unfair to replace Nyck de Vries without allowing him to finish a full campaign. Despite finishing P17 last time out at Silverstone, races such as Monaco and Spain where he beat his teammate have shown promise.

But F1 is a brutal business – and Red Bull management is among the most cut-throat. Personally, I do not think that they should get rid of Nyck de Vries before seeing how his first full season goes.

If they do, Daniel Ricciardo would likely be the safest bet to come in and get some results to finish 2023. From there, surely ushering in another young driver in 2024 is the way to go.

Featured image credit: Getty