Nyck De Vries, AlphaTauri, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #22: Nyck de Vries

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The first of our annual countdown exploring how RaceFans believe each of the drivers in the 2023 season performed over the year. While influenced by RaceFans’ regular driver ratings, they are not based solely on a driver’s average score over the season.

If there was any such thing as cosmic justice in motorsport, every Formula 2 champion would receive at least one reasonable opportunity to compete in Formula 1.

After all, there is supposedly no greater indicator that a driver is ready for the step into world championship-level competition to race against the best in the world than by winning the direct feeder series to Formula 1. Yet 2019 champion Nyck de Vries – like his successors Felipe Drugovich and Theo Pourchaire – found that even claiming the F2 title would not be enough to cause the great iron gates into Formula 1 to swing open.

Instead, De Vries took his talents to sports car racing and Formula E, where he was crowed the all-electric series’ first ever official world champion as sanctioned by the FIA. Eventually, a sudden chance opportunity to replace Alexander Albon at Williams in Monza in 2022 threw De Vries in the frame for an unexpected AlphaTauri seat at the age of 28 – already putting him firmly in the older half of the field as a rookie.

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri, Monaco, 2023
De Vries’ debut season was over before the halfway mark
De Vries may have had only slightly more grand prix experience than fellow rookies Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant at the start of the season, but had far more years of racing to his CV than peers. However, despite this far higher experience level, De Vries looked far less comfortable and much more error-prone than Piastri, who he was regularly racing near the back of the field with in the early part of the year.

After a decent enough opening round in Bahrain, he arrived at the unfamiliar Jeddah circuit and lost valuable practice time with a power unit problem on Saturday morning. A spin early in Q1 did not help his confidence and he was eliminated in 18th, but while he made his way up to 14th by the end of the race on Sunday, he admitted he had not been aggressive enough while the field were closed up in the early laps.

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He failed to finish in Melbourne, although that was entirely down to Sargeant taking him out at the final restart. But De Vries only had himself to blame for a woeful weekend in Baku. He crashed out of Friday qualifying, then was eliminated slowest from SQ1 before hitting team mate Yuki Tsunoda on the opening lap of the sprint race. Things got no better on Sunday as another mistake saw him clip the wall at turn five just ten laps into the grand prix, sending him out of the race and capping one of the worst performances by a driver all season.

He continued to show a concerning level of awareness when he locked up under braking for the first corner at the start of the Miami Grand Prix and hit Lando Norris’s McLaren, effectively ruining his chances for the rest of a race which featured no Safety Cars to allow him to make up for time lost due to damage from the clash. He put in a much more respectable performance in Monaco, a track he knew from F2 and FE, and kept his car out of the barriers across the weekend in tricky conditions. But in Barcelona he was never in contention for points throughout the grand prix while Tsunoda was scrapping for 10th place.

Nyck de Vries

GP start1220
GP finish1218 (x2)

In what turned out to be De Vries’ final three appearances, he was consistently underwhelming. He looked slightly desperate lunging at Kevin Magnussen in Montreal and causing them both to get stuck down an escape road, but then made even more mistakes the next weekend at the Red Bull Ring, including another badly-judged move forcing Magnussen off the track and earning a penalty in the grand prix.

That display at Red Bull’s home circuit might have ultimately sealed his fate. Despite a more controlled performance over the British Grand Prix weekend, he was again not able to beat Tsunoda over a race distance. After leaving Silverstone, De Vries was informed that his services were no longer required by Red Bull and his time as a Formula 1 driver was over.

Although he never got the opportunity to try and find improvement over the second half of the season like so many drivers who have struggled before him have done, he can at least be grateful that he got his opportunity to achieve his life’s dream of reaching Formula 1 – which is far more than many highly talented racing drivers ever get to say.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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27 comments on “2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #22: Nyck de Vries”

  1. It’s no surprise that Mercedes kept him on the sidelines for so long. Just not at F1 level. Perfect storm of a lucky result as a substitute and a team that needed to try someone new.

    Reflects badly on Formula E, if anyone was under the impression that it was a breeding ground for talent rather than a retirement option for has-beens.

    1. Well, Mercedes has Hamilton. So they’re not exactly desperate for new drivers.

      De Vries at Red Bull always seemed like a friendly gesture to Verstappen, rather than anything serious. Having him there made Marko’s faltering driver academy look even worse than it already does, and Horner has always been vocal about his disappointment in losing Ricciardo. And whatever the so-called team principal at the “very independent” team thinks is irrelevant. So Horner and Marko just needed to get Ricciardo in the simulator a few times to make sure he wasn’t a waste of anyone’s time after his embarrassing efforts at McLaren. Once it was clear he was no worse than Honda-appointee Tsunoda, De Vries was always going to get dumped. Unless he had won a race, or something…

      Nobody at Red Bull had any stake in him doing well. In a sport like this, that’s pretty much game over.

      1. So Horner and Marko just needed to get Ricciardo in the simulator a few times to make sure he wasn’t a waste of anyone’s time after his embarrassing efforts at McLaren. Once it was clear he was no worse than Honda-appointee Tsunoda,

        Based on the stats, Tsunoda performed better than Ricciardo YT = 9, DR = 6
        The last four races are the only available comparison.

        1. Notice he mentioned de vries was always gonna get dumped after that, which means he’s talking about ricciardo’s simulator data, not the actual comparison with tsunoda after. I agree I didn’t see enough to say he’s better than tsunoda, which would be pretty bad considering how gasly beat tsunoda.

        2. He did, but as much as I don’t care for the Anglophone love-in with Ricciardo, there are a number of mitigating circumstances that come with joining later in the season, and then recovering from an injury on top of that.

          As noted elsewhere, if Ricciardo can’t be clearly faster than Tsunoda next year he should just quit, because it’ll be obvious to everyone that he is not going to be back at his now ten year old form.

  2. That’s weird and unfair IMO.
    Sargeant has a lower average ranking (4.1) than De Vries (4.2), plus more options to impress, and (by the end of the season) had significantly more f1 experience.
    I don’t know what ‘not based solely on a driver’s average score over the season‘ could help Sargeant to overcome that gap.
    And (again IMO) experience should not impact a performance rating/ranking. This is not about how much drivers impressed us, but how well they did with the equipment they had available to them compared to the competition.

    Also in my ranking I have De Vries above Sargeant.

    1. I guess it’s recency bias. De Vries got fired a long time ago and that’s what we mainly remember. Sargeant had his best showings late into the season and that’s what lifted him ahead of De Vries.
      It’s just the way the human brain works. Even if you have the numbers right in front of you your brain doesn’t feel this should be right.

      1. This indeed.

        “You are only as good as your last 3 races.” Famously spoken by everyone in F1.

    2. The reasoning appears clear to me from the article. He’s made a bunch of mistakes, notably crashing into other drivers. The Norris and Magnussen incidents standing out in particular.

      1. This mistakes were already reflected in the race ratings; no need to deduct additional points now.
        To me the reasoning is still unclear, except for the recency bias fallacy as mentioned by @roadrunner.

        1. 4.1 vs 4.2 is so close that it is margin of error stuff. Especially since the ranking system enforces whole numbers. If one driver actually performed like a 4.4 during a race and another performed like a 3.6, they would both get the same 4 rating, but there is almost a full point between them, for that race, which will not be reflected in the race score or the average.

  3. An unsurprising ranking among all drivers who participated in the races.

  4. Although it’s hard not agree with his ranking on merit of the races Nyck has done – I do feel Nyck hasn’t been given enough time. For example just look at how Liam and Daniel performed against Yuki – they didn’t fare that much better – but did have the advantage of all the updates and a car that was better to drive. So I still feel sacking Nyck was premature and he was predominately a victim of internal politics (pressure on Perez via Ricciardo).

    1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
      11th December 2023, 13:18

      They did a lot better within limited time in the team especially Lawson.

    2. Ah, the magic of time, as we’ve often seen it fixes all the inherent issues in drivers. After all, after 3 years of time Giovinazzi greatly improved. Mick Schumacher’s second season was stellar. Latifi’s trajectory throughout his seasons at Williams only went upwards. And we could go on and on with all the rookie’s that were given additional seasons out of fairness over the past decade.

      We could, however, also just notice that additional time did nothing for these drivers, and the rookies that did end up staying around after their initial season were the ones that showed promise in their first season. When we look at Piastri, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz, Verstappen, we see potential in all of them in their first season. Yes, we too saw a rookie mistake or two for each of them, but also plain to see where the flashes of brilliance. No additional time needed.

      Nyck showed the opposite in his half season, his performance was bad at best and mostly seemed dire on average. I have a hard time believing time would have fixed anything. Compare that to Liam and Daniel’s performances. Both were decent with flashes towards very good, a stark contrast and both had even less time in the car than Nyck had. Out of the three alone, Nyck would still be dead last despite all his experience.

      1. Well I agree time won’t fix a lack of talent. But there are plenty factors and circumstances that can prevent a driver from performing at his level – certain characteristics of the car or the working environment etc. For example look at Daniel and McLaren. Let’s not forget that Nyck did have a stellar debut at Monza – not the most difficult of tracks, but definitely under very challenging circumstances in a car he didn’t know. Nyck certainly had a difficult time getting used to the AlphaTauri and I feel they could have at least had the decey to give Nyck some more races with the updates on the car – had he still not performed better by Zandvoort or Monza – I would have understood replacing him a lot more.

        1. @streydt that relies on the assumption that Red Bull had an interest in investing in de Vries’s development for the longer term, and there is an argument that there really wasn’t any interest for them in doing that.

          Once Ricciardo became available, Red Bull had an experienced driver who was also considerably more marketable than de Vries – there appears to be some hints that Ricciardo’s greater marketability might have helped secure additional sponsors for Alpha Tauri in the latter part of the season.

          Ricciardo also fits into Red Bull’s longer term vision for the main team – whilst Red Bull might not want to talk publicly about it, pretty much everyone sees Ricciardo as a potential replacement for Perez – whereas de Vries doesn’t really fit in with those plans. de Vries doesn’t serve Tsunoda’s strategic purpose of appeasing Honda, whilst Lawson has been brought up within Red Bull’s junior team with the long term goal of being slotted into Alpha Tauri and therefore has been integrated into Red Bull’s technical and marketing departments for an extended period of time.

          If, before the season even began, de Vries is being viewed as nothing more than a stop gap driver, there is no incentive for Red Bull to bother investing that many resources into developing a driver that they’d prefer to get rid of sooner rather than later. It’s like Brendon Hartley’s time at Toro Rosso – he was there because they had to put someone in the seat, but Red Bull was giving more than a few hints that they really wanted somebody else in that seat instead.

          1. You are probably spot on with that and it makes a lot of sense from the perspective of AlphaTauri / Red Bull (with Ford joining in 26 and Daniel being popular in the states). Nyck probably only had a chance of prolonging his time at AlphaTauri if he had beaten Yuki by huge margins.

      2. When we look at Piastri, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz, Verstappen, we see potential in all of them in their first season. Yes, we too saw a rookie mistake or two for each of them, but also plain to see where the flashes of brilliance. No additional time needed.

        I think Verstappens ability to crash was evident (many times) over his first season, and beyond.
        Piastri is interesting, people speak highly of Norris, and Piastri had the measure of him pretty much from day one.

        1. There’s still a massive gap between norris and piastri, I’m one of the least impressed with him, I’m not sure he’ll ever become a top driver.

      3. My goodness, I’d forgotten Latifi was in F1. What a joke.

    3. I agree with your thoughts. Nyck should have been put on the “reserve bench” or whatever they call it in F1, and Daniel given his seat. Then, when Daniel had his accident Nyck could have been given his seat back. When I look at Daniel’s performance I don’t think it was good enough to justify sacking Nyck.

    4. I agree he hasn’t been given enough time, but in a different way.
      At any other team, signing a driver means that the team has trust in him for this season and he has time till the end of the year to show whether he is worth of it or not.
      At the RB-teams, however, signing a driver means nothing. One can expect to be demoted/fired after any race, if Marko’s insights or interests suggest so. Very few drivers can thrive in such an environment.

  5. My judgement of him hasn’t really changed since he got sacked. There was an additional level of performance expected of him versus a typical rookie, and he was nowhere near that level. AT would have gained nothing by keeping him on!

  6. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    11th December 2023, 13:19

    I think he would have done a great job in the Williams ahead of Sargeant – unfortunately he had a dog of a car and a team

    1. he had a dog of a car and a team

      No-one questions that I think. The point is that Tsunoda, who is not considered a great talent by anyone I think, managed to significantly outperform him driving the same dog of a car. That said just 10 races was kind of brutal even for RB.

  7. De Vries was at best a temporary placeholder and at worst just a short gamble from Marko of which Horner strongly disagreed. As such, he was never going to be given a fair chance to prove himself within the team before he even stepped into that car. Marko’s unrealistic expectation that he should be the Alpha Tauri team leader right from the start reflected that.
    Having said that, he definitely failed in making the most of that short and arguably unfair opportunity, regardless of having to drive a dog of a car. He must have immediately felt this pressure to overperform from day 1 because his driving looked desperate at times.
    Having the reputation of somewhat of a slow starter, I’m pretty sure a proven successful driver like him would have upped his performance had he been given a whole season. But we will now very likely never know that.

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