Nyck de Vries remains on notice until the summer break, team owner Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko confirmed in Austria.
The rookie Dutchman, 28, has failed to live up to expectations at Alpha Tauri this year and apparently now only has the intense sequence of races at Silverstone, Hungary and Spa to prove he deserves to keep the race seat.
It is believed Marko also warned fellow Red Bull driver Sergio Perez that he needed to up his game after a recent performance and confidence slump.
“It was a great performance from Checo,” Marko said after the chequered flag at the Red Bull Ring.
“He drove in this duels very well and his regained his self-confidence and his lead over Alonso for second place has been extended.
“We’re going into the next races with confidence.”
1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, however, said there is nothing wrong with Formula 1 drivers feeling the pressure of a looming axe.
“At Red Bull, the drivers are always at risk,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “But it’s not just Perez.
“It applies to everyone who does not perform optimally.”
But for rookie de Vries, the pressure is particularly intense amid his first full season on the grid.
Kevin Magnussen said he thinks de Vries was “desperate” in his wheel-to-wheel duel with the Haas during the Austrian GP – for which the Dutchman was penalised in-race and given two penalty points on his super license.
“Everything with him is maxed out at the moment,” Magnussen said afterwards. “He may be under a bit of pressure.”
De Vries, however, was happy with his performance on Sunday – even though he had qualified dead last and finished the race 17th.
“I don’t think there was more in it,” he said. “I think it was a solid race.”
As for the obvious pressure on his shoulders, however, de Vries added: “I don’t care too much about what others think and I try to do the best I can.
“Later this month I think Budapest will suit us the best, without any long straights and with lots od downforce.”
As for his license points, de Vries said: “It’s just part of it. We’re racing for position and it’s not for me to determine whether a penalty is justified or not.”
Still, the pressure on his shoulders is obvious – including the need to end his points drought and at least get on the scoreboard with his on-form teammate Yuki Tsunoda.
“If confirmation is scoring points, then they’re asking something quite difficult. Almost unrealistic, yes,” he said.
“I’m just trying to do my job and I think this race was fine.”
And yet, the ever-watchful Dr Marko is still hovering nearby with his famous race-seat axe – which could swing after Silverstone, Hungary and Spa.
“Then we’ll decide what to do,” Marko, 80, confirmed in Austria. But I think Nyck drove one of his best races of the year here.”