By Adam Tate, Managing Editor
Word on the street is that Daniil Kvyat’s days at Red Bull Racing may be numbered. His clumsy double punting of Sebastian Vettel in the opening of last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix may well be the undoing of the promising young Russian’s season. According to multiple reports Red Bull boss Helmut Marko, not one to show mercy, may swap Kvyat with Max Verstappen for the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix.
The move, which sounds unusually harsh even by Marko’s standards, may be more strategic than the knee jerk reaction it initially appears to be.
Max Verstappen is the future. It has been universally stated and most within the paddock expect him to be a future champion.
This means Helmut Marko and Christian Horner need to promote him up from junior squad Toro Rosso as soon as possible, or risk loosing him to Mercedes or to Ferrari a la what happened with Sebastian Vettel.
Unfortunately this leaves no room for the talented but somewhat error prone Kvyat. He is not the next big thing. Red Bull wants to lock in Daniel Ricciardo, their post Vettel savior and they want to make room for Verstappen, who they can build a team around for many seasons to come. It may well be that Marko will use Kvyat’s error in judgement as the perfect excuse to demote him. Kvyat will become a sacrificial lamb on the altar of Verstappen’s talent.
It cleverly keeps Kvyat in the Red Bull stable where he would provide a strong team mate for Carlos Sainz Junior and still score many points behind the wheel of the agile STR11, but far more importantly it makes space for Verstappen at the big team where he can be measured against the proven metric of Ricciardo and molded by them into the driver they all hope he can be.
It may be a cruel fall from orbit for Kvyat who stood on the podium just 17 days ago in China, but the pinnacle of motorsport has never been a place to suffer fools gladly. The ball is squarely in Red Bull’s court. They can deny the rumors, or make grand opportunity out of minor tragedy.
UPDATE: They’ve done it. For the exact reasons listed.
Image: Mark Thompson/Getty Images via Red Bull Content Pool