Vettel: Driver swap was decided before Russia

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Red Bull’s decision to demote Daniil Kvyat was made before the Russian Grand Prix, according to Sebastian Vettel.

Kvyat was replaced by Max Verstappen in the week following the Russian Grand Prix and will now drive the rest of the season for Toro Rosso. Kvyat incurred the wrath of Vettel in Sochi when he crashed into the Ferrari driver on the opening lap of the race, but Vettel, who also came through the Red Bull young driver programme, said he was told the decision to promote Verstappen had been made before that.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with what happened in Sochi as I learned it had been decided beforehand,” Vettel said. “It’s good news for one [driver], it’s not so good news for the other. You can say Red Bull is the stronger team with more manpower and resources.

“If you look at the raw performance, probably not too dissimilar or not that different between the two teams. It’s a great chance for Max, not a nice call for Daniil but you should ask the people who are responsible and involved.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner confirmed there was a lot more to the decision than met the eye.

“I think the accident in Russia for many people perhaps is seen as a catalyst, but there’s obviously an awful lot more that is considered rather than just one Sunday afternoon. We are privy to an awful lot of information with these guys and it wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly … given a huge amount of consideration, and other factors as well regarding the longer term options and future of the Red Bull Racing team regarding its driver lineup.”

Horner said it had become a matter of “when” not “if” the driver swap would happen.

“We decided that you could wait until the test after Silverstone, you could wait until later in the year, but we elected that actually if we’re going to do it let’s get on and do it in time for the European season. Both drivers were back in the factory on Friday of last week testing in the simulator for their respective teams. While it might seem unnatural for another team, the fact Red Bull has these four cockpits allows us to have this flexibility and what we see as putting our best foot forward.”

Vettel said Kvyat apologised following the accident in Russia and said he thought very highly of the Russian.

“The last race is not the best example for Daniil. Unlike some of his colleagues, he had the balls to give me a call in the afternoon and tell me what happened from his point of view. He realised he had done a mistake and for me that is the end of the story. Of course I was very upset in the first place, disappointed because it ruined my race, but these things happen. There is no guarantee I won’t have a misjudgement on Sunday, in two weeks, in a year, in five years if I am still around. Mistakes happen. Of course mistakes happen less with experience, but this is why we are here, we are all pushing to the limit. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

“Whether now it’s a better line up for them, for sure it’s bad news for Daniil and good news for Max. But generally, I think very highly of Daniil. His natural speed, his raw speed is very very high. Maybe the current formula doesn’t suit him as well as others but in terms of talent and raw speed, he deserves to be in F1.”