Teenager Max Verstappen will take Daniil Kvyat's place at Red Bull, with the Russian bounced back to junior team Toro Rosso. This follows two high-profile Kvyat incidents involving Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull announced on Thursday they had promoted 18-year-old Max Verstappen from their junior Formula One team Toro Rosso with immediate effect. He is taking the place of Daniil Kvyat, who Red Bull has dropped back to the junior outfit.
"Max has proven to be an outstanding young talent," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said as part of the announcement. "His performance at Toro Rosso has been impressive so far and we are pleased to give him the opportunity to drive for Red Bull Racing."
Verstappen became the youngest driver in Formula One history last season when he made his debut at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. He has already drawn interest from racing giants Ferrari and Mercedes, a factor that may have influenced Red Bull's decision to promote him - hoping to keep the Belgian hotshot from jumping ship to a rival at the end of the season.
Vettel crashes not the reason, says Helmut Marko
Kvyat's demotion comes after he crashed into Sebastian Vettel twice on the first lap of Sunday's Russian Grand Prix. The two impacts forced Vettel to retire; the former Red Bull ace launched an expletive-ridden tirade over in-car radio when stricken at the side of the track.
In China, also, Vettel had taken Kvyat to task at the podium ceremony, accusing the Russian of forcing him into a collision with his Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen. However, Vettel later conceded, having watched the replay footage, that he had overreacted to a legitimate overtake by Kvyat - who made no contact with Vettel.
Red Bull's driver development program head, Helmut Marko - seen as a driving force in the two team's hiring and firing policies - told specialist website motorsport-total.com that the decision was not based on Kvyat's recent misadventures.
"Primarily, this was a bid to take some pressure off Daniil," Marko said. "He has fallen well short of his performances last year. On average, he's been three to five tenths of a second slower than [teammate Daniel] Ricciardo. Last year, they were neck and neck."
Red Bull promoted Kvyat at the beginning of the 2015 season after Vettel made his move to Ferrari. The 22-year-old Russian driver had bested his teammate Daniel Ricciardo last season, but he has been second best to the Australian so far this season.
"But what was even more difficult was that he was very incosistent, had lots of ups and downs," Marko said of the relegated Russian. "Sometimes things were working, as we saw in China, but he had put himself under such pressure that these form swings became automatic. The crash in Sochi was a response of the internal pressure he'd put on himself. It did not come from us."
Kvyat now returns to Toro Rosso, where he made his F1 debut, after two podium finishes with Red Bull.
"Dany will be able to continue his development at Toro Rosso, in a team that he is already familiar with, giving him the chance to regain his form and show his potential," said Horner.