George Russell has jumped to the defence of Nyck de Vries, who was brutally dropped by AlphaTauri after just 10 races into his debut season.
De Vries was signed by AlphaTauri to replace Pierre Gasly, who left the Faenza-based team to move to Alpine this season.
The Dutch driver massively impressed Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, where he replaced Alex Albon at Williams.
De Vries filled in for Albon – the Thai driver’s appendix burst – from Free Practice 3 onwards, before making it into Q2 and finishing ninth in his first F1 race.
Marko and De Vries had a meeting not long after his emphatic performance, with it having then been confirmed at the Japanese Grand Prix last season that the 28-year-old would be making the move.
Marko set very high expectations for De Vries, with him informing the media ahead of the 2023 season that he viewed the 2020/21 Formula E World Champion as the team’s leader.
Whilst De Vries is very experienced, this was a lot of pressure to put on a rookie, despite his older age.
De Vries ultimately struggled throughout the first part of the season and was defeated eight times by Yuki Tsunoda in the opening 10 rounds.
Marko was often very critical of De Vries to the media, and even warned that he’d been shown a “yellow card”.
From that moment on, it was seemingly a matter of time before he was axed.
Two days after the British Grand Prix, AlphaTauri confirmed that De Vries had been dropped and that Red Bull had loaned development driver Daniel Ricciardo to the side to complete the season.
De Vries isn’t the first driver to have been dropped by the Red Bull family and likely won’t be the last, with Russell admitting that he “wouldn’t have expected it in any other team”.
Russell knows De Vries well from the Dutchman’s time as Mercedes’ reserve driver, with the King’s Lynn born driver having criticised Marko for not helping De Vries “gain confidence”.
The Mercedes star is adamant that De Vries wasn’t given the “opportunity that he deserved”.
“I wouldn’t have expected it in any other team. Obviously, we know how Red Bull operates and you need to respect how they do things,” Russell told RacingNews365.com.
“I mean, I didn’t follow Nyck closely during his time at AlphaTauri, but I saw the reports and things that Helmut said and it is a difficult place to go if you’re lacking confidence.
“For sure, they didn’t help him to gain confidence, starting the season by saying he’s going to be the leader of the team for he is a rookie.
“It doesn’t matter that he is 27 or 28 years old, he is a Formula 1 rookie and you can’t go in telling the rookie that you are the leader of the team just because you’ve raced in more championships than your teammate.
“He was in a difficult position from when he started so I do feel bad for him. He is Formula 1 level, but didn’t get the opportunity that he deserved.”