Yuki Tsunoda believes that Nyck de Vries was prematurely axed from the AlphaTauri Formula 1 team, claiming he deserved until at least the summer break before being assessed.
Last week, the Red Bull sister squad announced that de Vries had left the team with immediate effect amid a challenging opening 10 races in 2023.
The Dutchman has been replaced by F1 veteran Daniel Ricciardo, who returns in a full-time role after departing McLaren at the end of last year.
De Vries was one of three rookies in the field this year, but was under additional scrutiny due to his extensive racing resumé, which includes championship success in Formula 2 and Formula E.
The 28-year-old was consistently out-paced by Tsunoda during their stint together at AlphaTauri.
But when asked if de Vries should have been given more time, Tsunoda replied: “I think so.
“I think just 10 races, especially most of the… couple of tracks he didn’t know. I think so.
“But at the same time, I know what Red Bull’s side is saying. But at the same time, yeah, I think he deserved at least until the summer break [at the end of July]. I was thinking at least that way.”
De Vries released a message on social media on Wednesday, speaking out for the first time following his dismissal.
Tsunoda confirmed that he reached out to his former team-mate after the news broke.
“I messaged him after the news. I didn’t know, it’s good to say to know, but I told him like, what I felt, and also appreciation to him,” Tsunoda said.
“And he gave me a really nice message back to me. So obviously we’re friends. I felt he’s a really nice guy and respectful person, yeah. I can respect a lot of things from him.”
Tsunoda will now face a fresh challenge in Ricciardo, who is hunting for a full-time return to the Red Bull squad.
Reflecting on how he found out about the arrival of his new team-mate, Tsunoda said: “I was doing the simulator on that day, in Red Bull.
“Christian [Horner] just told me just before the news, actually we met in coincidence in the factory, and he told me then.
“I didn’t know until on that day [when] there were team releases.”