F1 News

Alpine, AlphaTauri or Williams: Which F1 team suits De Vries the best?

Alpine, AlphaTauri or Williams: Which F1 team suits De Vries the best?

22 September - 09:29 Last update: 09:51
6 Comments

GPblog.com

Nyck de Vries is being linked to three different teams for 2023. The chances seem pretty good that the Dutchman will get to make his debut in F1, but which team is the best one for him to sign with? GPblog puts Alpine, AlphaTauri and Williams under the magnifying glass.

The options for De Vries

After a hopeless situation, the world suddenly seems brighter for Nyck de Vries. The Dutchman won his Formula 2 title in 2019, but no team came knocking on his door that year. After three years in F2, he had lost his chance and a career in other classes seemed more for him.

De Vries opted for Formula E, but his deal with Mercedes (as F1 team reserve and test driver) kept him in the sights of F1 teams. Following his 2021 FE title, there was therefore renewed attention for the Dutchman. Toto Wolff did the campaign for his pupil and seemed to have a place within Williams. However, Williams was convinced by a candidate from Red Bull, namely Alexander Albon.

With that, De Vries' last chance at F1 seemed gone, especially as he had a much lesser season in the FE in 2022. A deal at Maserati for the next Formula E season and a contract to drive at Toyota in the WEC were already in place, but the tide suddenly turned for the 27-year-old driver.

All through 2022, De Vries was already in the picture at Williams, where Nicholas Latifi's performance has been underwhelming. Free practice sessions for Williams, Mercedes and Aston Martin worked well for De Vries and so his value rose. Yet it seemed to fall the way of Oscar Piastri. After all, the latter was due to be stable at Williams by Alpine.

This time, however, De Vries was also helped for once by the driver market. Indeed, Piastri himself had no appetite for an intermediate step like Williams. He is leaving for McLaren, leaving Alpine to look for plan C after Fernando Alonso's departure, and Williams also has to look further down the line as a result.

Logan Sargeant was and is also in the picture for the seat at Williams. The F2 driver and junior at the Williams Academy won some races in the F1 step-up class but also went through lesser periods. That down phase caused De Vries to reappear in the picture after all.

De Vries was ironically helped by the very man who denied him an F1 seat last year. Alexander Albon was unable to drive the Italian Grand Prix due to appendicitis, and De Vries was put forward by Williams as a reserve driver (Mercedes' reserve driver is also McLaren's and Williams' reserve driver) to replace him. He did that so well that more teams are now on his radar.

Indeed, besides Williams who seem to be interested and also Alpine who see De Vries as a serious candidate, De Vries has also held talks with Helmut Marko about a possible seat at AlphaTauri. It almost looks like De Vries can choose. The question now is what is the best choice for him?

Alpine's Plan D

If you look at the performance of the cars, Alpine stands out head and shoulders above them. As a factory team at all, the French racetrack has an edge over customer teams, but Alpine also has P4 among constructors firmly in its hands. Points are attainable every week and if something goes wrong at the front with the favourites then a podium even beckons.

As a driver, you naturally want to be in the fastest car possible, but at 27 years old, De Vries also knows that place is also important. Choosing Mercedes in Formula E worked out well because of its links with F1 and now he will have to make a choice that gives him the best chance of staying long. And fair is fair, that chance is a lot smaller at Alpine.

Indeed, the situation at Alpine is very difficult for De Vries. The team first wanted to keep Fernando Alonso in that spot. A two-time world champion and clear front-runner. When he suddenly left, the team wanted Oscar Piastri: one of the greatest talents of his generation with an F2 and F3 title in his first season.

Alpine's third option is Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman has 102 Grands Prix behind his name, three podium finishes and one win. However, doubts also surround him. After all, Red Bull must want to let him go and Gasly and Ocon are by no means friends. They have been feuding since childhood and are said to still be at each other's throats.

Should Alpine end up with De Vries for that reason, you have to realise that he is Plan D. De Vries is the fourth choice and that is not an ideal situation from the start. After all, you know that the team actually wants a driver with more experience and (we can argue about this) more talent in that spot.

Even within the team, that situation will be tricky. Esteban Ocon may not count as the greatest talent in the sport, but as a Frenchman, he has an edge within the team. He has also been there for three seasons and has a contract until 2024. So the chances of De Vries knocking him around for a while are not that great. If one has to leave, it is of course De Vries.

Under pressure from Marko at AlphaTauri

As a team, AlphaTauri is currently eighth in the constructors' standings, which is also where the AT03 currently belongs. The chance to drive at AlphaTauri also comes a bit out of the blue. Red Bull seems keen to keep the current line-up and doesn't really have juniors ready to make the step up to F1 either.

However, De Vries has come into the picture as a possible replacement for Gasly. The Frenchman himself would love to go to Alpine, where he could join a (French) factory team. Gasly himself also knows that his chances of promotion to Red Bull Racing are very slim and is therefore at his ceiling within the Red Bull squad. Red Bull is willing to think along despite an ongoing contract until 2023 but needs a suitable replacement.

That replacement first seemed to be Colton Herta, but he did not have enough points for a super licence, was not granted an exemption position by the FIA and did not want to make the step back to all kinds of junior classes to get enough points himself. He signed a longer contract with Andretti in IndyCar and so Red Bull had to look further afield.

The fine performance at Monza suddenly put De Vries in the picture and Marko acted quickly. They immediately sat down in Graz and the ball now seems to be in De Vries' court. Does he want to become Yuki Tsunoda's teammate in 2023 and join Red Bull at the age of 27? Brendon Hartley did it unsuccessfully before, but Sergio Perez shows it can work.

De Vries finds himself in an interesting situation at AlphaTauri. Yuki Tsunoda is very fast over one lap and is close to Gasly in the qualifying duel (average difference of 0.120s), but the Japanese's performance is not consistent. In addition, he still makes too many mistakes and has his emotional outbursts on the team radio which cause irritation in the garage and at the pit wall.

Tsunoda would be an interesting teammate for De Vries in that respect. The Dutchman, with his F2 and FE titles, has actually proven to be very consistent and over one lap, De Vries has always been very strong. The question is more how he will compare in race space to the Japanese over a full season.

So it seems an ideal choice, but there are also downsides to this deal. After all, Red Bull is not known for its patience, so De Vries will not be given time to settle in. With the big junior team and Isack Hadjar the big favourite in F2 in 2023, the pressure is on right at the back, so the man born in Sneek will have to perform.

Within the team, the situation is also interesting. Tsunoda once came in through ties with Honda and you can't escape the impression that Marko has more patience with Tsunoda than with any other talent. 'The problem child' of AlphaTauri has already been helped in various ways to become calmer and more consistent. Is there more than just favouritism towards Honda at play here?

A duel with Albon at Williams

Williams is a team De Vries has been linked with for some time now and where he has now also been able to make his debut in F1. For the romantics among us, a choice for this team would therefore make sense, but you also have to be honest and say that Williams is dead bottom in the constructors' championship and there are no signs yet that that will change just like that in the coming years.

A place at the back of the grid will reduce the pressure on De Vries. He will be given time alongside Albon to get used to his car and every point is taken for the Grove-based team. So there is more to gain than lose. Apart from Sargeant, Williams does not have an impressive junior programme either so the pressure from behind is not as great either. Besides, as the last team on the grid, there are few big names banging on the team's door every year.

Still, getting in at Williams will not be too easy. De Vries did beat Latifi in Italy, but so did George Russell and Albon whistling over the past three seasons. While it is handsome to do that as a rookie, Albon and Russell have proved that Latifi is no benchmark F1 driver.

Albon is already a few steps ahead in that respect. He impressed in six months at Toro Rosso and was given more time and confidence at Red Bull Racing than his predecessor Pierre Gasly. He may lack the ultimate top speed to make things difficult for drivers like Max Verstappen, but for Williams, he already proved an ideal front-runner this year with some points and strong qualifying.

Which is the best choice for De Vries to make?

It's hard to be in De Vries' shoes. Years you have waited for the chance to make your debut in F1 and now, at the age of 27, you have to make a considered decision. On the one hand, you have little to lose: after all, you might not have expected a debut in F1 already. On the other hand, you do want to make the right choice now, because a good choice now could also just ensure that you are active in this sport for years to come.

Everything ultimately depends on how well De Vries actually performs in the car. You can think it over beforehand, but if he would lose the duel from all the other drivers, you won't have a long life in the sport anyway. However, you can look at where it is most likely to have a long stay in the king class of motorsport.

Alpine is the all-or-nothing option. At the French racing stable, De Vries gets the fastest possible car of the three teams but is also the most detrimental risk. Because you have to score points every week, lesser performances are also more noticeable. Besides, joining a team where there is already a French driver in a French team with a long contract in his pocket is not the ideal situation. Also because you would be the fourth option for the team management.

Of all the options, AlphaTauri seems the best. The Italian team can buy more parts from Red Bull Racing again in 2023 and is likely to see performance improve dramatically. In addition, the eighth car on the grid will see its leader disappear and, with Tsunoda, a changeable talent remains. A teammate for De Vries who will be tough, but not unbeatable. The risk here, though, is the whims of Marko and Red Bull training.

The last and safest option is Williams. A team at the back of the grid is less under a magnifying glass and points are already seen as a huge achievement. It is also the team that has now awarded De Vries his debut in F1, which is also worth something. On the other hand, Albon is not the least of the opponents and, despite then boarding the worst team, it will not even be easy for De Vries to just become the team leader. Besides, it is simply the least car on the grid and that doesn't seem to be going to change overnight either.

Let us know in the poll and comments which choice you think De Vries should make

Video player

More videos