The Red Bull Young Driver Program has potentially claimed another scalp, as from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards Max Verstappen will replace Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull.
Red Bull announced that with immediate effect Verstappen will be moving up to Red Bull, while Kvyat will return to Toro Rosso, a team he last drove for in the 2014 season. The two will remain in these positions till the end of the season.
Verstappen is the latest young star in the Red Bull young Driver program. In 2015, Verstappen drove for the Toro Rosso team when he was just 17 years old. Making him the youngest F1 driver ever to compete, beating previous Red Bull young driver Jamie Alguersuari. Verstappen showed his talent off in 2015, particularly in regards to overtaking. He even managed to score two 4th place finishes in Hungary and the USA, as well as consistent points scoring throughout. This season, while things have not gone his way completely with reliability from his car, the young driver has clearly proven enough to warrant the promotion to Red Bull. He will have a seat fitting at Red Bull’s factory in Milton Keynes this week and apparently cannot wait to drive the RB12 for the first time at Barcelona. “The next step in my relatively short career so far, is an amazing opportunity,” he told his personal website. “I really want to thank Red Bull Racing and Dr. Helmut Marko for the confidence they have in me.”
“Max has proven to be an outstanding young talent. 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.” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said today before adding, “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.” But where exactly does this decision leave Kvyat?
The decision comes after two headline making weekends for the young Russian. In China he pulled off a ballsy move down the inside of Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel. Which saw Vettel hit his team mate Kimi Raikkonen as a result. Both Vettel and Kvyat managed to score a podium that weekend, while Kvyat even managed to be named the driver of the day by fans on Twitter. When the Russian was being confronted by an angry Vettel in the cool down room he simply shrugged and said, “I’m on the podium. You’re on the podium.”
The same could not be said for the last race in Russia. Kvyat managed to hit Vettel not once, but twice in the opening few corners. While the tag from Vettel ruined fellow Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo’s race as well. The moves saw Vettel out in the barriers in an expletive ridden rant, and the chance for points for both Red Bulls essentially a write off after early pit stops. His move on Vettel was deemed by many to be unacceptable. But worse than that, Kvyat committed the cardinal sin of racing that weekend. He took out his team mate. The one thing you should never do in racing. As a result of that move, Red Bull saw Ferrari move out in front of them in constructors. While the gap they built up to Williams in 4th was all but wiped out.
The decision shows just how quick someone can fall from favour in F1. Kvyat, was once described as “the real deal” by Horner when he was promoted to replace Vettel in 2015 after just one year at Toro Rosso. Fast forward a season and a bit, and even a podium hasn’t saved him from being demoted. A fact McLaren driver Jenson Button pointed out in his tweet defending Kvyat.
— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) May 5, 2016
The Red Bull young driver program, of which Kvyat is a part of, is one of the most ruthless on the grid. In the late 2000’s it wasn’t uncommon to see the junior outfit Toro Rosso manage some mid-season firings to bring in young, fresh talent. Often drivers are given two seasons to prove themselves in Toro Rosso. At the end of those two seasons they are either promoted to Red Bull. Or unceremoniously dropped, and left to fend for themselves. Ruthless, yes. But then again, this is the same system that gave us four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, three time race winner Daniel Riccardo, and now the young prodigy Max Verstappen.
The reality is Kyat must be feeling like this is last chance saloon for him. Demoted from the big team back to Toro Rosso, he must realise now he is driving for his career. The reality is there is probably not much he can do. The likelihood is that we may see a new face in the Toro Rosso next season. And the Red Bull young driver program will claim another victim.
Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Racing press release.