A recent reshuffle at AlphaTauri has sent waves through the F1 community, leading to whispers about the stability of Sergio Perez’s place at Red Bull. Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff’s recent statements have only intensified the buzz around this situation.
Nyck de Vries, who once donned the Mercedes reserve driver hat and clinched the title as Mercedes Formula E champion, experienced an unexpected departure from AlphaTauri. After a mere ten-race stint in his rookie season, de Vries found himself replaced by the seasoned Australian, Daniel Ricciardo.
The swift transition of Ricciardo into the AlphaTauri team has many speculating. The prevalent theory? Ricciardo’s entry might be a tactical move to place some heat on Sergio Perez. Currently lagging behind his Red Bull teammate, Max Verstappen, Perez’s future seems uncertain despite his contract extending through 2024. Red Bull’s team chief, Christian Horner, has vouched for Perez’s safety. Yet, the paddock’s chatter suggests otherwise. The pressure is on Perez, and finishing second in the drivers’ standings may be his only saving grace.
In a candid discussion with Sky F1, Toto Wolff didn’t shy away from sharing his perspective on the de Vries saga. He empathised with the Dutch driver’s sudden exit, emphasising that perhaps a full season could have showcased his potential. Wolff pondered:
“Maybe he needed more time. If he had been given the season, who knows?
“Maybe he would have been a really good candidate for the Red Bull seat too.”
Furthermore, the Mercedes CEO didn’t hold back in stirring the pot of rumours around Perez’s position at Red Bull. Wolff voiced a theory that de Vries’s abrupt departure might be collateral damage from Perez’s sub-par performance. The introduction of Ricciardo into the team could be an exploratory move to evaluate him as a feasible successor to Perez.
“They wanted, I think, to do some benchmarking with [Daniel] Ricciardo to see if Daniel might be able to take Checo’s [Sergio Perez] seat.
“And once you’ve made that decision, then of course you’ll fall through the cracks.”