Red Bull has announced that Max Verstappen will take the place of Daniil Kvyat at its senior Formula 1 team for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Verstappen, 18, swaps seats with Kvyat, who returns to Toro Rosso – Red Bull’s junior team – having made his debut with the Italian outfit back in 2014.
Kvyat came under fire following the Russian Grand Prix after hitting Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel twice on the first lap and ruining teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s race.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and team advisor Helmut Marko had face-to-face talks with Kvyat this week, before taking the decision to demote him to Toro Rosso.
“Red Bull Racing will have a new driver line-up from the Spanish Grand Prix,” a statement from Red Bull read.
“Max Verstappen will be joining the team to drive alongside Daniel Ricciardo. Daniil Kvyat will continue to drive for Red Bull and will re-join sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso.”
Horner was pleased to give Verstappen the opportunity to race for the senior Red Bull team after an impressive rookie season in 2015.
“Max has proven to be an outstanding young talent,” Horner said.
“His performance at Toro Rosso has been impressive so far and we are pleased to give him the opportunity to drive for Red Bull Racing.
“We are in the unique position to have all four drivers across Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso under long term contracts with Red Bull, so we have the flexibility to move them between the two teams.
“Dany will be able to continue his development at Toro Rosso, in a team that he is familiar with, giving him the chance to regain his form and show his potential.”
The immediate response to the news was that of shock, given that barring his errors in Russia, Kvyat has enjoyed a strong stint with Red Bull.
The Russian beat the highly-rated Ricciardo across their first year together as teammates in 2015, and charged to third place in China just three weeks ago for his second podium finish in F1.
Red Bull has been known to make cut-throat decisions in the past though, with the likes of Jean-Eric Vergne, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais all being dropped from the energy drinks giant’s F1 programme in the past.
Bourdais was the last driver to be replaced mid-season in the RBR/STR setup, dropping the Champ Car legend after the 2009 German Grand Prix.
Verstappen now has the chance to prove his mettle and make the best of a top-line seat, but at just 18 years old, he still has plenty to learn.
As for Kvyat? It is difficult to see where his F1 career goes from here, at least with Red Bull. The sport is enjoying a boom in Russia and he is the face of it, yet being sent back to the ‘training ground’ of Red Bull is nothing short of humiliating.
Time will tell whether this was a canny move by Red Bull or a snap decision all parties will come to regret.
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