MATT JAMES AMES
“A high price to pay for one slip-up”
So the upward trajectory of Max Verstappen continues. He has been told by his Red Bull bosses that, from the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend onwards, he will be eating at the top table alongside Daniel Ricciardo in the main team.
That is great news for Max, who has proved any doubters wrong and shown that, from the very first moment he took part in a world championship grand prix in Australia at the age of 17 years and 166 days, he was worthy of such rapid promotion from the European F3 ranks.
While that switch will undoubtedly grab all of the headlines in Catalunya this weekend, there have inevitably been some casualties along the way in terms of their careers; Daniil Kvyat and, to a lesser extent, Carlos Sainz Jr.
Even Red Bull’s head of its driver development programme Dr Helmut Marko admits that Toro Rosso is a “good midfield team” in F1. Hardly loft praise and hardly the words to have Kvyat dancing in the street.
Kvyat’s crime, as far as I can see it, is one poor race in Russia – he made a mistake by collecting Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, knew he had erred and held his hands up to it afterwards. It all seems a bit harsh.
Yes there was contact between Kvyat and Vettel in China too, but it is hard to fully apportion blame squarely to the Russian. Despite Vettel’s complaints, the four-time world champion was not without fault in that incident.
Effectively, moving Kvyat to Toro Rosso is fulfilling his contract with Red Bull while shuffling him towards the exit door, no matter what it has said.
And what of Sainz? Sure, he didn’t score as many points as Verstappen last season but he wasn’t a million miles off in terms of pace. What next for him? If he trounces Kvyat, he will still be seen by his paymasters as not as good as Verstappen, otherwise they would have chosen to promote the Spaniard above the Dutchman to Red Bull.
If he loses out to Kvyat, the man who lost out to Verstappen, then that will be the exit door for him too.
There is no doubt that Kvyat and Sainz both have the ability to succeed at the top flight, but the Red Bull shuffling could have them both scratching around for sportscar or Indycar drives before either of them has reached the age of 23.
Sure, Formula 1 is meant to be a harsh environment, but the golden promises of a driver development scheme can sometimes make that tough path almost impossible to conquer.
Kvyat has been booted out of the Red Bull team