Mired in the sticky mud of exceeding a budget cap, Red Bull continue to forge ahead in all other areas; in particular the driver market by signing Nyck de Vries to AlphaTauri.
Formerly a Mercedes protégé, De Vries recently excelled at Monza, replacing the temporarily side-lined Alex Albon at Williams following a bout of Appendicitis.
Jumping from an Aston Martin on Friday to a Williams on Saturday, the not-so-young Dutchman demonstrated why he should have been in Formula 1 full-time earlier in his career, rather than in his 27th year.
De Vries’s ninth-place finish in Italy made a resounding ping on “the good doctor’s” radar, presenting him with a satisfying solution to his “French problem” at AlphaTauri.
It’s never good to have a highly ambitious ex-first-team driver in your “B” team car that knows he’s never going to climb back into the “A” team’s tub, ever, especially when he’s being wooed by a competitor.
Part of Helmut Marko’s issue was Pierre Gasly’s function of being the relative “adult” in the team and being quick enough to net much-needed World Championship points when he wasn’t being fired off by his number two. Releasing him was a hard ask when there was no apparent replacement that could take over his role.
Machiavelli would be proud
Then De Vries arrived on the scene; already a World Champion, he had the experience, maturity and now, evidently, the pace to anchor the team.
On top of that, he was from the Mercedes academy. Bringing De Vries to Red bull would deprive his archenemy of what seemed to be the obvious Lewis Hamilton replacement when he retires, something that will happen sooner rather than later despite the recent social media blah.
Enticing him away from Mercedes was also something that no doubt managed to crack a smile in the currently under-siege Red bull camp.
All that glitters is not Bull
From the outside, this may well seem like a good result for De Vries too. No doubt he’s got his eye on Sergio Perez’s seat, and is assuming the Mexican will lose it sometime in the next couple of years.
However, I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. Checo has been doing a sterling job as Max Verstappen’s wingman, creating zero problems when the script is running to plan and stepping up to the plate when it doesn’t.
For sure he will take second in the World Championship this year as he receives the full focus of the team for the remaining Grand Prix’s now Max has already secured the Crown.
The light at the end of the tunnel could be an approaching train
However, if and when De Vries makes it to the first team, there will be no deposing of “the Klompmeister”. Buried deeper in Red Bull Racing than an Alabama tick, I see no chance for him politically or in overall pace terms usurping Verstappen’s position.
De Vries is very good, but not Verstappen good. Being Max’s teammate has proved to be more of a graveyard for driver confidence than a stepping stone to success, much in the way it was Hamilton’s in the past.
He can also expect no help from “The Good Doctor”. Marko’s driver development approach is to put the little dog in against the big one. For him, it’s not the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog; the principle being if the little dog wants it enough, he’ll win. Brutal, but fair.
If De Vries wanted to win a World Championship with Max still on track, he should have stayed at Mercedes as they are still the only team likely to produce a car that can beat one of Adrian Newey’s chariots; that is unless Ferrari goes through a Schumacher/Todt/Brawn-type metamorphosis.
Either way, I wish him well in the future. Belated or otherwise, he will be at last where he deserves to be: Full-time in F1. The Orange army can also heave a sigh of relief. No longer faced with a compatriot in the enemy camp, they can remain united under one flag. The flag of the Bull!