Jul.1 (GMM) Daniel Ricciardo has moved into pole position to return to Formula 1 – and perhaps as soon as this season.
Struggling Alpha Tauri rookie Nyck de Vries is understood to have been given only another two or three grands prix to prove he deserves the seat.
And in Austria, the Dutchman qualified dead last.
“We have to look carefully and decide what to do in the future,” said Dr Helmut Marko, the Red Bull driver mogul.
Even Alpha Tauri team boss Franz Tost, who normally insists that new drivers need three years to show their potential, admits time is now running out for Dutchman de Vries.
“All the drivers in Formula 1 are under pressure,” he said.
“Let’s see how he performs here and in Silverstone – tracks which he knows well.”
When asked if the 28-year-old will make it all the way to the end of the season, the Austrian admitted: “It depends only on him.
“If he performs well, why should we change him? The philosophy is quite clear – the performance decides.”
If Alpha Tauri does decide to pull the plug, team owner Red Bull is reportedly nervous about pulling Liam Lawson out of Super Formula mid-season.
“Of course, the team’s philosophy is to train young drivers,” Tost said. “But if the young drivers aren’t there right now, and they’re still on the way for us, then we may have to find another solution.
“But this has not been discussed until now. First we have to see who is available and mature enough and trained enough and ready for a Formula 1 car.”
The obvious candidate is out-of-work Red Bull reserve Daniel Ricciardo, who while not keen on returning at the back of the grid might see Alpha Tauri as a stepping stone.
When asked specifically about the 33-year-old Australian, Tost tellingly did not deny he is a candidate.
So when asked about that, Ricciardo’s current boss Christian Horner said in Austria: “I think Daniel’s under contract for the year.
“He’s going to be driving our car for the first time after the British GP. And he’s obviously a world-class driver.
“So I think the first thing will be to see how he performs and where his motivation is. From there, it’s a question for Alpha Tauri.”