“I don’t feel any extra pressure”
Kvyat demoted after difficult start to season
Teenager Max Verstappen insists he feels no extra pressure heading into the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, despite receiving a surprise call-up to Red Bull to replace the struggling Daniil Kvyat.
Red Bull confirmed last week that it has opted to swap Kvyat with Dutchman Verstappen with immediate effect after a string of troubled performances this term for the Russian.
Kvyat has endured two clashes with Sebastian Vettel in successive grands prix and has struggled to match the pace of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Kvyat will now step back to Toro Rosso to partner Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr.
The youngest driver ever to take part in F1, Verstappen, now 18, therefore joins Red Bull Racing having taken part in just 23 grands prix.
“I’m really happy to be joining Red Bull, but a bit shocked as well,” said Verstappen. “I go [to the Spanish GP] with no expectations. I wouldn’t say more pressure. I just want to adapt to the car, understand it better and see what my team-mate [Ricciardo] is doing because the most important thing is to score points. I just hope to feel comfortable in the car – I’ve never driven the RB12 before, so we’ll find out how it is in Barcelona.”
Verstappen’s move to the top table is timely due to increasing interest in him from Ferrari. The Scuderia is eyeing a replacement for Kimi Raikkonen for next season and has been an admirer of Verstappen. “I’ve always been happy at Red Bull so I’ve never seen a reason to change,” added Verstappen. “This team is very competitive and I’m also a very competitive person, so hopefully it’ll be a perfect match.” Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko said the move was also made to diffuse some rising tensions at Toro Rosso between Verstappen and Sainz. The pair clashed over strategy at the Australian GP and have since had a frosty relationship. “There has been considerable unrest at Toro Rosso between Max and Carlos, so we have solved several internal problems,” Marko told MotorsportTotal.com. “We have not removed Kvyat. He is still with us in the squad and Toro Rosso is a good midfield team.
“This takes the pressure off Daniil. He has not been at the same performance this year. He has been three to five tenths [per lap] slower than Ricciardo. Last year he was at eye level.
“He has had ups and downs and been inconsistent and the crash at Sochi [with Vettel] was a consequence of the internal pressure he had built up himself. It did not come from us.
“Romain Grosjean was once in a similar situation when he had crash after crash. We wanted to avoid that, and our luxury is we have the ability to set him up for Toro Rosso again.”
Kvyat has lost his Red Bull Racing seat