No time to waste on drivers who don't deliver
AlphaTauri has long been criticised for the way it throws drivers out the minute they're perceived to be struggling. They did it again this season with the early exit of Nyck de Vries. Were they justified in dropping the former Formula E champion, or was it a mistake to bring him on board in the first place?
Only one team on the 2023 grid fielded more than two drivers all season, and that was AlphaTauri. It's symptomatic of how the squad has treated its drivers right back to its days as Toro Rosso: as soon as Helmut Marko decides that someone isn't up to the standards required by Red Bull, it's time to usher them to the exit with all due haste and make way for someone who might be.
Tonio Liuzzi, Scott Speed, Sébastien Bourdais, Jaime Alguersuari, Sébastien Buemi, Jean-Éric Vergne and Brendon Hartley are among the names that have featured, often quite briefly, over the years before being cast out by the team. Daniil Kvyat arrived, was promoted to Red Bull, demoted back to Toro Rosso, dropped altogether, recalled and finally jettisoned for good in 2020. Alex Albon also got a brief promotion to Red Bull before being abruptly dropped, but at least he's since landed on his feet at Williams where he's been tagged as a star and even champion of the future.
Marko does gets credit for discovering Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz. At least two of these are once in a generation talents (Verstappen perhaps even greater than that). But overall you have to question whether so much 'wastage' in the development and recruitment process is really the best way of going about things, and whether it justifies putting the careers of so many promising young talents through the grinder in the way that it has. There's hard-headed ruthlessness in sport, and then there's single-minded sociopathic carnage for the sake of it.
A bigger problem for Marko and his team is that in recent times the constant supply of talent from Red Bull's junior driver development programme seems to have been exhausted. Pierre Gasly was another driver to have a brief promotion to Red Bull before being dropped back to the junior team, where he remained from 2019 until 2022 because there simply wasn't anyone better waiting in line to take over as in years past. Likewise Yuki Tsunoda survived a rookie season that would have put him firmly in the firing line in previous years and remains on the books for 2024. Perhaps that's in part due to the importance of the Japanese driver's ties to Red Bull's engine partner Honda.