Vettel: Red Bull made driver decision before Russia

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Sebastian Vettel believes that Red Bull had decided to drop Daniil Kvyat in favor of Max Verstappen before his clash with the Russian two weeks ago in Sochi.

Red Bull announced last week that Kvyat would be returning to Toro Rosso for the remainder of the season, with Verstappen moving in the opposite direction up to its senior F1 team.

The decision came in the wake of a disastrous Russian Grand Prix that saw Kvyat hit Vettel twice in two corners at the start of the race.

Speaking in Barcelona on Thursday, Vettel said he believes the decision to demote Kvyat was made in advance of this race, with their clash having nothing to do with the move.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with what happened in Sochi. As I learned, it has been decided already beforehand,” Vettel said.

“I don’t know what the reasons are for the swap, but I don’t think it’s related to Russia or in China.”

Vettel explained that Kvyat called him to explain the crash in Russia, with the German brushing it off as a racing mistake.

“The last race is not the best example for Daniil but, unlike some of his colleagues, he had the balls to give me a call in the afternoon and to tell me what happened from his point of view,” Vettel said.

“He realized he made a mistake and that’s the end of the story. There’s nothing wrong with that.

“Of course, I was very upset and disappointed in the first place because it ruined my race, but these things happen. There is no guarantee that I won’t have a misjudgement here on Sunday, in two weeks, in a year, in five years if I’m still around.

“Mistakes happen. Of course, with experience, they tend to happen less, but this is why we are here. We are all pushing to the limit. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”