Christian Horner insists Daniil Kvyat’s career with Red Bull can continue beyond 2016 despite his demotion to junior team Toro Rosso.
Kvyat has dropped back to the team he began his F1 career with in 2014, with Max Verstappen stepping up to take his place at Red Bull. The demotion gives Kvyat 17 races to prove himself at a team likely to drop down the pecking order as the season progresses due to its year-old Ferrari engines.
Despite a podium in China, Kvyat had been outqualified by Ricciardo at all four races this year and Red Bull’s initial announcement mentioned his seat at Toro Rosso would allow him to regain confidence. Horner has pointed out the fact Kvyat was kept at the junior team rather than just released from F1 as proof the company still has faith in his ability as a driver.
“I think it’s a harsh decision,” Horner admitted. “I think feeling sorry for Danny … on one hand you can say ‘hang on, he isn’t driving a Red Bull car’, but he’s still in a competitive car in Formula One. I think he takes some solace in the fact that any other driver that hasn’t succeeded in Toro Rosso or Red Bull Racing hasn’t been retained.
“Formula One costs Red Bull tens of millions of pounds a year across the two teams — if we didn’t believe in him as a talent he wouldn’t have been retained. I think putting him into Toro Rosso will enable him to recover his confidence, his form, and of course be evaluated from there.”
When asked if that meant Red Bull was not closing the door on him returning, Horner replied: “I think as we’ve demonstrated here, anything’s possible. The contracts that they have permit the team to move drivers across those seats.”
Kvyat had to face the press on Thursday, sitting front and centre in the FIA press conference at the Circuit de Catalunya. The Russian said Red Bull had not offered him a proper explanation of why he had been demoted when he got the call from Helmut Marko, which occurred while he watched an episode of hit TV series Game of Thrones.
When asked what his own explanation was, Horner said: “If you look at this, and of course many people will judge it to be harsh or unjust possibly, the decision we’ve elected to take … Red Bull is in a unique position where we’ve got four cockpits in Formula One between Red Bull and Toro Rosso and at the moment they are four relatively competitive cockpits.
“We have an awful lot of information about the drivers, having come through the junior programme, we see how the develop in the simulator, we analyse their performance in the car, we have and generate a huge amount of data, knowledge, information, together with other testing we do wth the drivers. And we came to the conclusion that Daniil has been struggling a bit for form compared to his teammate and that there had been a consistent pattern there.
“The discussion arose about Max and within the contractual situation we have with these drivers and the four drivers we have the unique opportunity to shuffle the order. Rather than waiting until later in the year, we decided to get on and do that in time for the European season and effectively switch the two drivers — Verstappen into the Red Bull Racing car and Kvyat into the Toro Rosso.”