THAT controversial move by the Red Bull brains trust to effectively demote Daniil Kvyat to Toro Rosso and call up teenager Max Verstappen to the A team looks like a masterstroke following the Dutchman’s brilliant win in Spain.
But a week earlier, plenty were not so sure. Some believed the punishment for the Russian didn’t fit the crime. Kvyat, who was in Moscow watching Game of Thrones on TV when the fateful call came from Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko, clearly believes he should still be in the top team.
But we’ve learned the reshuffle was not so much punishment for Kvyat but a pre-emptive strategic ploy to keep Verstappen in the fold.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, talking to Autosport’s Ian Parkes, says that moving flavour-of-the-season Verstappen to Red Bull has effectively prevented any other preying team manager from mounting a raid on his star drivers.
Horner confirmed the 18-year-old Dutchman has committed himself to Red Bull "for multiple years".
With Verstappen’s highly regarded new teammate Daniel Ricciardo under contract with Red Bull until at least the end of 2017, both Red Bull stars are locked in tight.
The reshuffle of drivers between the two teams owned by Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz may have been planned before Kvyat’s recent first-lap blunders at the Russian GP.
Keeping Verstappen off-limits to rivals was obviously a priority, while the move also eased growing tensions between the youngster and the other Toro Rosso up-and-comer Carlos Sainz Jr.
Horner then told Autosport that Verstappen is going up against one of the very best drivers in Formula One, Ricciardo. A serious benchmark.
"The way Daniel is driving at the moment I don't think there is a better driver in Formula One, so the thought of the pairing is fantastically exciting for us."
Happy, smiley Ricciardo didn’t much like being upstaged in the Spanish Grand Prix.
But that was Round One. Don’t believe Verstappen will fix him up in every race. Ricciardo was spectacular in qualifying at Catalunya and led Verstappen in the race until the team’s strategy call.
Ricciardo says he welcomes Verstappen’s arrival at Red Bull as it would crank up the pressure to perform. Cast your minds back to his own elevation to Red Bull when he came up against a four-time world champ…