The pressure appears to very much be on Nyck de Vries ahead of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with the Dutchman having been shown a “yellow card” by Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko.
De Vries has endured a challenging start to life as a Formula 1 driver, with the former Mercedes reserve having already made multiple driver errors, whilst he’s also just lacked outright speed.
Given that he was signed by AlphaTauri following his sensational debut points finish last year at the Italian Grand Prix, the Faenza-based team would be right to feel disappointed by how De Vries has started the season, especially with Marko having labelled the 28-year-old last season as someone who can lead the team.
Yuki Tsunoda has been responsible for all of AlphaTauri’s positive moments so far this season, with the Japanese driver having very much asserted himself as the team’s number one driver.
He’s been incredibly consistent and very quick, with Marko having admitted that the gap between Tsunoda and De Vries is currently “too big”.
As a result, Marko has spoken to De Vries; however, he isn’t set to be axed in the near future, despite what some reports have stated.
Should the former Formula E Champion fail to improve, though, then Marko will look to the Red Bull junior team for a replacement, with Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher not being an option.
“If the worst came to the worst, we would fall back on our pool of young talent,” Marko told F1-Insider.com.
“We are talking specifically about Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa. Ricciardo is not an issue.”
Liam Lawson is arguably the favourite for the seat, given that he is Red Bull’s official reserve driver.
The Kiwi has enjoyed a sensational start to life in Super Formula this year and has been part of the Red Bull system since 2019.
At just 21 years old, Lawson has already established himself as someone who is certainly good enough for F1, with him having won his debut race in Super Formula.
He also finished third in the Formula 2 standings last season, further highlighting his raw talent.
Ayumu Iwasa would also be a strong replacement for De Vries and would perhaps be Honda’s preferred choice should Red Bull sack the Dutch driver.
The Japanese driver would form an all-Japanese line-up at AlphaTauri alongside Tsunoda, something Honda would love.
Iwasa is currently third in the F2 standings but has already claimed multiple victories this season, with him also being the highest placed Red Bull junior driver in the championship.
Iwasa is also 21 years old and has demonstrated immense pace at times this season, something which could see him challenge Tsunoda fairly quickly.