Christian Horner sheds light on Nyck de Vries sacking despite Red Bull contract promise

Christian Horner has opened up about the early exit of Nyck de Vries from AlphaTauri after just ten races at the team.

In a recent interview, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner openly discussed his reservations about Nyck de Vries’ AlphaTauri Formula 1 deal, shedding light on the tenuous situation within the Red Bull organisation. 

Horner’s statements, made during F1’s in-house F1 Nation podcast, indicated that the decision to drop De Vries in favour of Daniel Ricciardo was prompted by a belief that signing De Vries had been a mistake.

Horner’s sentiment was initially reported through Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, who had advocated for De Vries after the Dutch driver’s impressive performance as a stand-in for Alex Albon at Williams during last year’s Italian Grand Prix. 

However, Horner’s recent interview clarified that Marko had not misrepresented his views on De Vries and may have even understated them.

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While Horner’s remarks on the podcast remained diplomatic and respectful, a firm undertone suggested that the signing of De Vries had been a misstep that required immediate rectification. 

Particularly revealing was Horner’s response to a question about the possibility of letting De Vries continue until his home race, the Dutch Grand Prix, which marks the start of the second half of the season after the summer break in late August. 

Horner stated, “That would have meant obviously leaving him in the car until after the summer break. 

“I think the situation was clear. 

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“It was a question of ‘OK, what’s the point in waiting?’ 

“If we’re going to do something, we may as well get on with it and give Daniel 12 races to see what he’s capable of.”

Earlier in the podcast episode, when asked if he had always been skeptical about bringing De Vries into the Red Bull fold, Horner swiftly replied, “yes.” 

His primary objection revolved around the fact that De Vries, who entered the season at 27 years old, was part of the Mercedes F1 system as a reserve driver across their teams. 

Horner found this to be an unusual fit for Red Bull, which boasts a vast junior driver program and priorities talent development through it. 

Horner stated, “Look, Nyck is a very capable driver, a Formula E champion, a Formula 2 champion. 

“He’s obviously got a lot of experience, he’s not a young driver as such from an age perspective. 

“And I just didn’t see how it fitted within the junior program. It was almost a stopgap.”

Given De Vries’ previous accomplishments, including winning the Formula E championship with Mercedes, extensive experience in LMP2, and testing for Mercedes, Aston Martin, and Williams in F1, Horner believed that he should have been able to adapt quickly to Formula 1 this season. 

However, there was a general feeling that De Vries was falling short of expectations. 

Horner noted, “There was a high expectation on him because, while inexperienced in Formula 1, he is obviously a very experienced driver. 

“And I think there was a general feeling that Nyck wasn’t quite hitting the mark.”

The announcement of Ricciardo’s replacement of De Vries came on the day of Ricciardo’s first F1 test since leaving McLaren. 

Horner revealed that Marko had personally called De Vries during the test, indicating that Red Bull had already made up their mind regarding the change. 

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Horner admitted, “It all happened a little bit quicker than expected, bearing in mind that we hadn’t completed the test. 

“Helmut spoke with Nyck, he was the one that obviously had recruited him. 

“He was the one that spoke with Nyck on about lap 11 of the test, I think.”