Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri F1 seat fitting fuels De Vries rumours

Daniel Ricciardo’s recent visit to AlphaTauri’s Formula 1 factory in Italy for a seat fitting has fuelled rumours that he could be set to replace Nyck de Vries.

Daniel Ricciardo, Reserve driver Red Bull Racing

However, while de Vries is facing some tough times in his rookie season, Ricciardo’s presence in Faenza does not mean a driver change is definitely on its way.

Instead, Ricciardo’s visit was nothing out of the ordinary. As part of his arrangement with Red Bull for this year, where will be reserve driver at some races, the Australian will also fulfil that role for AlphaTauri, so a seat fitting is a necessity.

Ricciardo has yet to drive an F1 car since taking on his Red Bull job, with his first outing in the RB19 set to take place in the post-British Grand Prix tyre test at Silverstone.

But with Red Bull claiming that Ricciardo has rediscovered his missing form in its simulator to be back to his best, he would be an obvious contender at AlphaTauri if the Italian outfit elected to make a change.

De Vries has had a difficult baptism with the Italian team, having yet to score a point and getting involved in his fair share of incidents.

His best result of the season was 14th in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. He crashed out in Australia and Baku, and came home in 18th in Miami after running in to the back of Lando Norris on the opening lap.

For now, the team is keeping faith in de Vries, with team principal Franz Tost having said at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that it would be wrong to expect a rookie not to endure his fair share of incidents.

“As I always say, there is a learning process and a crash period because, if the drivers don't crash, they don't know the limit,” he said.

“This is a credit you must give them, otherwise it doesn't work. And there was no driver not crashing. I remember with Sebastian [Vettel] in the first races, he came back on the first lap most often without the front nose. That's part of the game.”

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri AT04, hits Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, at the start of the race

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri AT04, hits Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, at the start of the race

Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

But while de Vries is not under immediate pressure, sources have suggested that the team’s senior management, and especially Helmut Marko, want to see some signs of progress by the Spanish Grand Prix next month.

With a triple-header coming up on tracks that de Vries knows, there should be a better opportunity to judge his potential – which is why how he does at Imola, Monaco and Barcelona will be crucial to dictating his future.

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High-level sources have also suggested that if de Vries does not deliver the step forward that Red Bull is hoping for, then it is far from a given that Ricciardo would be first in line to replace him.

It is understood that Red Bull would first of all consider other youngsters on its junior roster.

Liam Lawson, who has impressed in Super Formula this year after winning his maiden race in the category, would be the most logical choice.

Furthermore, Red Bull could even opt for F2 regular Ayumu Iwasa who, despite a disappointing recent weekend in Baku, has two race victories under his belt this season and currently lies third in the standings.

De Vries himself said he was looking forward to his chances for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, because there should be a good performance step from the team as well as it being a more regular weekend.

“We are bringing some kind of bigger update,” he said. “We're kind of excited for that weekend, to see if we can make a step up. And it's a normal weekend, which also helps.”

Additional reporting by Adam Cooper

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