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Behind the Kvyat/Verstappen swap: A switch that could work out for all parties
Red Bull Racing
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 May 2016   |  11:13 am GMT  |  133 comments

After the shock of the Red Bull move last week to drop Daniil Kvyat to Toro Rosso and promote Max Verstappen, the pair were out in their new cars on Friday here in Barcelona getting down to work.

The more one discusses this with various parties involved and with interested observers from other teams, one realises that there is far more to it than simply anticipating Verstappen’s promotion which was on the cards anyway for 2017.

Here is my take on what this is all about.


Verstappen’s contractual situation
When Max Verstappen came into F1, he had two choices – sign with Mercedes as a test driver in 2015 and wait for a race seat or race in 2015 for Toro Rosso. The deal stipulated that Verstappen would have two seasons with Toro Rosso and then be promoted to Red Bull, which would trigger the option for 2017 & 18. If Red Bull did not make that promotion, he would be a free agent at the end of 2016.

This is why we reported in March that the decision had already been made to move Verstappen to Red Bull in 2017 as this would trigger the option and keep him out of Mercedes and Ferrari’s hands.

Mercedes’ interest has cooled a little, especially after the strategy row during the Australian Grand Prix, but Ferrari remained keen.

There were suggestions that Verstappen may be moved across in the later stages of 2016.

Kvyat knew this and he looked nervous and unsettled in and out of the car in the early stages of the year. It may well have contributed to what happend at the start in Russia, nothwithstanding the fact that he had scored an excellent podium just two weeks earlier in China, Red Bull’s only podium of this season to date.

When Kvyat crashed into Vettel twice on the opening lap in Russia, an opportunuty opened up to make a switch, but there was an additional motivation for making the switch, to do with relations within Toro Rosso.

Sainz, Tost

Toro Rosso politics
Things have been quite lively inside Toro Rosso since last season, with two young drivers fighting for supremacy, being forced to accept team orders both ways, being reluctant in some cases to accept them and so on. But things escalated in Australia when Verstappen’s strategy went haywire, he made an unsceduled stop and the team lost a strong result. An enquiry after the race by Red Bull director Helmut Marko found some conflicting stories about what had happened.

In Russia there was a dispute between Verstappen’s engineering team and the team management over tactics, tyres and qualifying approach, an example of a situation which the Verstappens were finding increasingly difficult to deal with. They told Marko they would like to move Max to Red Bull sooner rather than later.

Russia provided an opportunity to kill several birds with one stone and Verstappens’ engineering team was released in the clear out.

Meanwhile Kvyat was rumoured not to be entirely comfortable in the Red Bull team, to the extent that he had been at Toro Rosso, so when he spoke yesterday about the warm welcome in Faenza and the good feeling he has with the team, he was hinting at that.

Max Verstappen

The outlook for Kvyat
Kvyat conducted himself with great dignity in the FIA press conference on Thursday. He had wanted to be in there, did not shirk the challenge and came in with a plan. He did not let emotions get the better of him, which is always a risk with him and came out of it all looking dignified and a bigger man. We learned something about Kvyat yesterday and most people liked what they saw.

One of the subtle truths in our sport is that F1 people like a person who suffers a major setback or a fall but who takes the blow, gets back on their feet and moves on. That is Kvyat now.

The comparison with Romain Grosjean is quite valid here; although Kvyat’s fall is far greater than Grosjean’s, which was mainly just a lot of heavy criticism and a one race ban for causing accidents, the pair are similar in that they have great speed and car control, but struggle to channel it and conquer their emotions. Grosjean went away and worked on his psychological approach, his peripheral vision and countless other areas and came back a stronger driver.

The man dubbed a ‘first lap nutcase’ by Mark Webber, scored some wonderful podiums at the end of 2013, shared his joy at becoming a father and won many admirers. He has carried that through with his bold move to the Haas team and his fairytale start with Haas this year.

Kvyat said yesterday that he feels stronger and there are certainly possibilities for 2017 for a driver with three years’ experience who has been through the mill. The key is for him to be consistent the rest of this season.

He will be expected to beat Sainz, as he has more experience. It puts pressure on Sainz on one level in that he no longer has another rookie as a benchmark. But in another sense the atmosphere in the team will now calm down and he should be able to perform at his best level with minimal politics.

Max Verstappen
The outlook for Verstappen
Max Verstappen sat next to Kvyat in yesterday’s conference looking tanned, relaxed and very confident. He reminded me of a young Michael Schumacher, in his Benetton days, who used to appear the same way and look like he’d beaten everyone before the race had even started.

Verstappen appears to be another in that mould and the pathway is there for him to be the next Schumacher, Hamilton, Vettel in our sport.

“I’m very happy with the chance they have given me,” said Verstappen. “I’m racing for a top team now, so that was always the plan; what I wanted to do. And yeah, with the risk, to be honest I think it was a bigger risk to be so young in Formula One but I’ve handled it pretty well.”

The challenge of adapting to a new car, during a season, is not to be underestimated. It has a different power unit in the Renault, compared to the 2015 Ferrari and the car has much more downforce. He has little experience to draw on. He will be up against one of the fastest drivers in the business, who is also one of the best at looking after the rear tyres in a race. That will be the main area where Verstappen will struggle in comparison and only experience will bring success in that specific area, which is critical to doing well in Pirelli era F1. Ricciardo is also very consistent.

He will provide an excellent benchmark for Verstappen and if the Dutchman is the real deal, we should start to see that over the next 18 months in comparison to Ricciardo.

What looks a ruthless move, sorts out several problems that had been festering at Red Bull for some time and the rest of the season should be calmer for both teams. Marko has taken the sting out and now he and we can fully evaluate the four exciting drivers that Red Bull has in F1. How many of them are still with Red Bull in 2017 will be a another story.

If they do move on I would suspect that Sainz may interest Williams and Kvyat could be of interest to Force India, should there be any movement there.

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Great read, James. It all sounds very logical to me. However, subsequently Christian Horner has stated that there was zero pressure from the Verstappen camp so that would contradict your idea that the Verstappen camp did influence the decision?


Agree with you about James' Article, Very insightful. Thank you James. Even though hlg8888 says there was zero pressure from Verstappen Camp, the writing was on the wall when Vettel went to complain to Horner on the pit wall during the race, you could see from the body language Horner sympathized with Seb. Not a good sign. Makes one wonder how much influence Seb still has with Red Bull maybe a move back will be on the cards if Ferrari don't deliver the goods.


And a team principal always tells the truth! That was sarcasm



Well he would say that......

Lost all respect for RB's management during 2014 & 15 with the PU saga but this..... Wow!


Yeah because everything Horner says is true rivht ??????


To automatically assume the opposite is just as ignorant.


thread hijack....

Bring back JEV!!!


"Russia provided an opportunity to kill several birds with one stone and Verstappens’ engineering team was released in the clear out"

Am I reading that correctly that Verstappen's entire engineering team is out the door and looking a new job?

If so, ruthless indeed.


Yeah exactly what I thought.. But now Im starting to wonder whether Sainz is the new Alonso ????


Could be but repetitively slower than VES.


You mean your new driver to despise?


No hes given me no reason to. In fact of all the RB juniors I thought he should get the drive before Kvyat his times at his first test were impressive. Theres very little between he & Max tbh


Yes, I heard they were fired!!


Forgot about "The first lap nutcase" quote from Webber . Was a very apt label for Grosjean.
Kyvat showed a great level of dignity regarding the swap. Hopefully he will shine under his old boss.
Red Bull may end up with more problems regarding Ricciardo & Max. Max doesn't enjoy playing second fiddle & if he gets on the wrong side of Ricciardo then the teenager may get the Aussie Italian chest bump and slap.
Red Bull may keep Max for the long run but I feel Ricciardo will be at another team in 2017.
Be great to see him in a Ferrari .
Kyvat has had the backing of Lewis & Alonso which must be some solicexamples as they consider him to be a careful & considerate racer. Unlike Max who has created a few incidents himself. Especially with Monaco coming up. He also needs to start leaving his Dad behind as he matures as it may seem a Verstappen Senior is a control freak in the mold of a Sunday Football league competitive Dad living his dreams through his Sons success.


To answer your question on Jos Verstappen.. He has resigned from managing his son yesterday.


Makes me think about another reason for the swap. There have been alot of rumors about Ricardo moving to another team mostly Ferrari and Kyvat was called up all of a sudden to replace Vettel. Could be a tactic by Red Bull when it comes to negotiating Ricardo's contract to show him that he's not irreplaceable. They knew for sure that they getting Verstappen this could also be a chance to evaluate who to keep/promote to the senior team between Sainz and Kyvat.


What kind of incidents are you talking about? For a youngster without a drivers license he did perfectly well.


RB Seat-Swap Saga – Part 3?!
It appears to be developing into a series.
I guess all is quiet on the rest of the F1 front?

When Verstappen is able to challenge Mercedes’ dominance I’ll take an interest.


Of course.. As if Mercedes is beatable at the moment.. So don't take an interest I would suggest. First weekend in his new car, ending 4th, after beating DR in Q1 and Q2..


Horner & management certainly know how to unsettle a young driver. Why did they tell him that they may switch drivers early on in the season. That would definitely unsettle Kyvat.
Crazy. I hope Kyvat has a better go of it at Toro Rosso. Maybe the new battle will be Ricciardo giving Max a lesson he won't forget .


We saw that lesson today.. Not, at his first weekend in a new car.. Don't underestimate him..


So in summary the switch should have taken place over winter, not four races in. Why in the f$&K would Marko not just make the call for the 2016 season in its entirety if the intention was to always promote Verstappen per James' summary of his contract and the option for '17 & "18. Marko is a nuffy and the only reason he is there is the Austrian tie in the the big boss and the fact that they came across each other at a dinner party many moons ago
If he was born over the border he would be running some formula 3 team running at the rear of the grid. People say they have done a fantastic job with their driver talent identification program but given the resources it is essentially a scatter gun approach, if you shoot enough bullets a few will land. Marko is the luckiest prick in f1, people will figure that out eventually.... In the meantime kyvat has to resurrect his career, the garbage some people have to put up with.....


I find it surprising people being so overtly critical of a team that has ONLY been 11 years in the sport and has 4 World titles (!) (both driver and team). All done under the driver program of Helmut Marko, who brought into F1, without a doubt the biggest talent after Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel (and now Max which definitely seems like a future start). The way you write makes it sound like you know him personally, and have a personal grudge against him. You are puting into question is capacity as a professional and I think that's a big ugly based on few decisions you don't agree with.


I don't have a personal grudge against Marko but I can understand how it comes across that way. My frustration is the fact that Marko seems to forget he is dealing with people that have worked very hard to get to where they are and ultimately they are all very good drivers which they all demonstrated before they were contracted to RBR. They were contracted for a reason! It is the teams responsibility including Marko's to get the best from them and I think he does a very poor job of this. He plays favourites.

Verstappen has potential and someone very wise said to me once a person with potential is a person who has done nothing. Vettell is a great driver if not recalcitrant at times, a most unbecoming personality trait that Marko fed for some reason in the glory days. He has matured well now he is away from Marko who used to follow him around like a lost puppy.

I do not dispute Marko contracted Vettell and Ricciardo who are both top notch. What I am saying is what would someone who has more emotional intelligence, a person such as Eric Boullier achieved with the same resources. Eric's management of Grojean over the years was nothing short of outstanding. It is a case of right country of birth and knowing the right people that sees Marko where he is today. I cannot see why any other team would ever recruit him as I do not believe any other team would see him as a person that would enhance the performance of their environment. Boullier was hired by McLaren for a reason and the way he has managed the nightmare that was 2015 for McLaren was about as good as you could hope for.

How many other teams would change their driver line up after four races? How is this creating a high performance environment? The problem is not Kyvat, it is reactionary management.


If nothing else consider how complex the situation is, how specific goals and needs dictate decisions, how even in a detailed piece like this there are assumptions - as Max's contract for example is not something you can check out st the library, the details of options are likely hearsay.

It illustrates complexity of F1 deal making, needs of team, individuals, competition, goal convergence, hard decisions being taken to achieve those goals. And beauty of the whole thing, one swing, done.


Interesting article James.

There has been a lot going on behind closed doors, shows what a pressurised environment it is in TR & RB.

I was surprised that Max got promoted so quickly though. Obviously he is the real deal but I think he lets his emotions get the better of him, he certainly needs to mature very quickly to become WC.


Thats the thing though, he doesnt. Say it took him 7 years into his career to mature he would still only be 24, an age where many other drivers are making their debut seasons. As long as he doesnt get dumped on the RB scrapheap he has a hell of a long time in the sport.

If he manages to last until he's 40 like Schumacher did he could have 23 years in the sport just imagine how many records he could rack up.


An excellent look behind the scenes there James. All is never as it seems in F1!

Stephen Taylor

But what if for the rest of the season Max can't match Daniel between now and the end of the season ? When then James? Surely his F1 career would be in tatters unless a midfield team outside of the RB setup took him onboard with Sainz promoted or Kyvat reinstated to RBR for 2017 depending on who wins the STR battle from now on Sainz is actually the one who could benefit most from this as he knows his car/team and carry on doing what he has done for the last season and a bit.


Daniel is pretty much on his own in this one. The reality is unfortunately that he's a stepping stone for Max. Max has more value to the team.

This is as unlikely a move as you can make in F1, and it shows significant favour for Max by Red Bull. Daniel has to watch his back now, he carries no favour, no leverage. In fact best he can hope for is fair even treatment, and I wonder if he'll even get that.


Good point, Sebee, food for thought!


Nice piece, James!
After too many stories by the media belting RB for being cruel, stupid, ruthless, and a pack of b@st@rds, it's good to read something about their logic and reasoning.
It now makes a lot of sense and will likely benefit both Max & Kvyat and to a lesser extent Carlos. Danny Ric will just drive on as per usual.
A good result all round, I'd say.


I'm not saying it isn't ruthless: it is!

But the point is, there's more than one reason behind it


Yes, I suppose it is very ruthless. Like Doug and Dinsdale Piranha - cruel, but fair… 😉


My first instinct was that RB found put that Ricciardo will leave for 2017 so they want a future lead driver in the team since they do not rate Kvyat that high.

4 races into the season is weird to me.


A very sensible analysis of the situation. However, I suspect KVY will be consigned to the scrap heap after this season unless he can bring sponsorship to another cash-strapped team...


This article sounds like everyone is beautiful, everyone is kind, genius, smart and winner. You forgot that Kvyat is the big looser of this farce.
Ok James you don't want to criticized and upset Redbull, you know their power so you do that on purpose. Obviously if you have gone this way you could say bod bye to the access to the brand, the team and the driver. I can understand you fear losing your privileges.
It's the same analysis like other pundits, the microcosm is protecting itself.
It's very difficult to justify a such hash move, I'm really surprised and impressed about the reasons you hardly found. Whatever your arguments are it's definitely not fair neither justify. I found you more realistic, pugnacious and hard when you criticize and put down drivers you don't like.
Definitely it's a shame.


@daredevil: Quite bold personality... Fair enough, I respect that.

However, your last two sentences are quite passionate if not inaccurate, that kind of shadows the entire article. I doubt a professional writer would dislike F1 drivers being harder on them when writing articles; ok, there may be a sympathy for some rubbing shoulders in the paddock during races, we are humans, but I have not seen this website taking side with some of the drivers.

If you do believe in what you said, then try reading Benson on BBC and you are gonna learn something. That soul is one of a kind. Everything is about Alonso, the British drivers and then the rest. Germans are last on the list, sometime you need a magnifying glass to see Seb's merits in Benson's sagas (but we all know why)


You're right about the BBC, I have identified that for so long. It's a kind of pro & ONLY Alonso site paid by the spanish bank Santander to glorify how good, quick, smart, perfect Alonso is & bla bla bla.... For a has been driver who won his last championship 10 years ago it's too much credit, Andrew is surely 100% blind.
I appreciate the jamesonallen website, this time I don't agree with the too kind Redbull angle he choosed to treat the subject, I just said that. I have feared that James loose what his the power of past analysis : his integrity. For example, I really appreciated and give 100% credit to the angle he taked to talk about the qualifying fiasco of the non sense system at the beginning of this season, I was waiting for the same for the Kvyat case.
So I choosed to bold that, we need his strong analysis like old days.
I think he will recover from that.


@dare devil, James isn't saying anything that logical people haven't been already saying since the day after the swap happened.

Look back through all the comments section, even someone as dumb as I, when I took the emotion out of the thought process, was able to deduce that there was a lot going on behind the scenes, and that the move had very little to do with Kvyat's 100m of terrible racing in Russia.

Let the emotion go, think logically, and it all makes sense 🙂


I'm disapointed becayse James make in general very strong good analysis. This time I just note that he miss a major point : he appaears to defend and applaud the RedBull move.
Even if it was a matter of time Kvyat, the method is disgusting brutal unfair humiliating... I hoped from james to highlight this point more and tell us he doesn't back up the method. He rather prefer going the other way. So i'm disapointed of that, the article is too fair to resbull, it's a one way picture...


Let's not get carried away. I feel for Kvyat, but a) this is but a sport, b) they are all extremely well-paid youngsters living a life the rest of the world can only dream of. A harsh decision, yes: disgusting, no.


You seem envious about them?
It's not about money. It's rather about What Redbull bring to the Formula 1? I can only found : criticize of supplier like Renault, point finger on rivals when they loose, they shoukd dominate, bad looser, they should win, their desires are orders, the reclaim mercedes engines, talk badly about formula 1, bring teenager into the sport ONLY to break stupid record like : the younger GP winner, they younger this the youger that... It's stupid


"Disgusting, brutal, unfair, humiliating".

That sounds extremely emotional to me. Nothing about F1 is about "being fair", and everyone involved in the sport knows this.

Also, this type of demotion happens all the time in professional sports. It's a little unheard of in F1, but in an overall sporting context, it's very very common.


There's nothing linked to emotion in my statement. It's all about ethic, for me formula 1 is a sport not a show even if the drink company redbull use it this way as a marketing platform. For me,the great figures in the sport and fan should be focus and monitor these king of methods and puts strong word on them with no fear to prevent other occurrences. It's necessary & vital for the sport to qualify theses acts otherwise things can going worse. Following this swap, Why not swap driver during the race or uses several drivers in a race like in FIA WEC? It will be very entertainment but castrophic for formula 1. Theses things are not Formula 1.
We are at a turning point in formula 1, there's too much teenager, it's starting to look like GP2, F3...this is exactly Redbull philosophy : bring new name every year. Who remember Bourdais, Alguesauari, scott Speed, Vergne...
Redbull destroyed the exceptionnal character to dominate theses machines, if Max can do it, why not my Grand Ma. It's ridiculous.
I thing me should go against that and point finger on them when they act badly like with kvyat.


I dunno man...all that sounds pretty emotional.


You misunderstand if you think I appaud it.

Listen, this is a very tough business and all the drivers know that, especially the Red Bull guys; they owe their chance to Red Bull but know that they are at the whim of Marko and the bosses. I simply explain in this post, which is based on speaking to everyone from Kvyat and Horner to other team bosses up and down, what was behind this move and what I think will happen as a result

Kvyat will leave Toro Rosso at the end of the year of course and I think that if he drives fast and consistently the rest of 2016 he will get a drive with a Force India or another team of that type, as Perez did when McLaren dropped him. Other teams all rate him and think he has potential and next year with a rule change a quick driver with 3 years experience is more attractive than a rookie like Vandoorne, for example.

Meanwhile Sainz is also highly rated and likely to have to move on at the end of the year - I could imagine him slotting in at Williams, for example. But TR need to be careful as the next Red Bull drivers are not as exciting as these four current drivers.

If he goes down and doesn't drive well


If TR decide to drop both Kvyat and Sainz at the end of 2016, and Sainz does go to Williams like you suggest (makes decent amount of sense), Alex Lynn may rue the day he left the Redbull Junior program....unless he is content to be a Williams 3rd driver until 2018.

Sainz / Massa ?
Sainz / Bottas ?
Sainz / Lynn ?

This really is going to be a crazy silly season lol


I think you should have called it out for what any other team manager would have, it is reactionary in response to securing Verstappen for 2017. Marko couldn't make a decison over winter so don't pretend that it is all calculated and planned. He came under the pump from Verstappen's management team who alluded to gestures from Ferrari. People just used the word ruthless in place of or to try to explain poor management.


You are entitled to your view.

This is mine


Don't get me wrong James you are the consummate professional. You are simply hamstrung in what you can write as you need to engage with people like Marko to get your information. I didn't intend to come across as disrespectful of what you wrote, us armchair critics can write what we like without fear of ostracism!


It's overplayed that kind of talk

Yes we need to be able to speak to people, but that doesn't mean it tempers the way you write when they do good or bad things

The point is that I am not a polemicist. I don't feel the need to 'slam' anyone or to come at it from an inflated ego point of view. This site is about insight and helping fans understand the sport more. That's all


very excellent clarification, thank you.


And remember that F1 is a team sport and the atmosphere needs to be right within a team for everyone to perform at their best.


Few things are missing here.

First, omitted from all of this is the fact that it's in everyone's interest to have Max succeed for various reasons. And by everyone I mean Formula 1. Max failing is a bad story line. Max succeeding is good for F1. F1 has significant interest in this move.

Second, Kvyat satisfied his need by having Russian driver on the grid when Russian GP was coming online. Now the thinking is, he's done 3 Russian GPs, not as necessary anymore. In order to keep him in some Russian sponsor money will have to follow.

Third, Red Bull are media savvy and know how to make themselves visible, and what they are doing is good for them and also good for F1. This move surely makes Bernie happy.


This is my view without fear or favour

If you don't like it I'm sorry but we will see in s year's time how it all played out


I do disagree with most of what Daredevil said, but he's right about you overlooking the fact that Kvyat is a major looser here. He didn't deserve such a harsh punishments, all good drivers make mistakes. The likes of Lewis, Vettel, Checo and Kimi but none of them got such a punishment. Hell, he even held his own against Dan Ric, much better than Vettel did.


It's not a punishment either


Why do people keep insisting Kvyatt was demoted solely because of what happened in Russia?


Yes but if you start from the position I spelled out over a month ago that Verstappen was going to replace him in 2017, then it's a question of timing, I said it was ruthless because it is. But the writing was on the wall anyway and in this scenario he has a chance to show his character and his speed and not be the guy who just gets dropped at the end of the year by a top team.


I believe JEV would agree with you there James


Thank you very much, James, for this assessment from the depths of F1.
Hopefully, it will calm the hysteria somewhat.


A couple of thoughts. It might have been kinder and less damaging to Kyvat's reputation if Red Bull had of waited a race or two after Sochi to demote him. As it stands now his terrible mistake in Sochi will always be partnered with his ignominious demotion in the eye of teams and fans. If Red Bull had always planned to switch the two, then this 'opportunity' presented to Red Bull by Kyvat's mistake involves kicking the poor guy when he is down at probably his lowest career point. It can only be viewed as punitive and humiliating. Why not let him recover from his low point, then present the switch as a constructive solution to the problems James has highlighted? No one has gained reputation or image from this situation, whereas everyone could have come out of it in better light-especially Daniil.

Secondly, it will be fascinating to see how Max behaves at Red Bull. Despite behaving poorly in the eyes of the team-by ignoring team orders, unscheduled pitstops etc-he has been rewarded with a promotion to the top team! He knows his talent, and he now knows that Red Bull will bend and pander to keep him onboard and sweet. He'll be bossing that team in every way sooner rather than later. It will be great to see!


It's easier to get a fast driver to behave than it is to get a behaved driver be fast.


Good points, both of them. Re Max, teams don't mind at all the prima donnas (provided the results are there). His temper is a bonus.


No doubt, Jos knows that F1 needs this young Max story to work out. He also knows that Mick is hot in the heels. Window of opportunity is limited as always, but the Verstappens (hilarious by the way) will use the leverage at this point to maximum effect. I wonder how this all works out for Ricciardo actually.


They have Bernie's backing, and Heineken is tied into the story of Max becoming the sport's superstar.


Heineken, of course! I thought part of the motivation of promoting someone so young was to compliment Red Bull's marketing as a hip/youth brand but this makes a lot more sense. Max seems like a good racer but he has yet to accomplished anything in F1 and if Red Bull returned to the top they could have their pick of drivers, nothing is compelling them to promote from within. $150 million in sponsorship... well played Bernie. Horner must have been telling the truth regarding the absence of pressure from the Verstappens; they were merely riding the winds of fate.


Isn't he just a tad too young to be promoting drinking/alcohol is he not? He should hit 21 for marketing alcohol. I know it's legal in some places at 18 but not all. And seriously - it's poor judgement and bad taste for alcohol brand to advertise with someone so young who's age we all clearly know. It's not just a matter that he's young, I'm not even sure he looks his age. With those dimples and pimples I'm not sure I'd clear him for 16.


@Sebee, "Mick is hot on his heals." He is...but is he really?

Mick is dominating Italian F4 right now, but he's not exactly running away at the front of the ADAC F4 championship.

Australian Joey Mawson is currently giving Mick a serious run for his money. Joey has 3 race wins to Mick's 1, and 6 podiums to Mick's 2. And in the 6 races I've watched, Joey looks the more comfortable and consistent of the two. Iirc, he's out qualified Mick on most occasions as well.

For me, the jury is still out on Mick. I need to see him against higher level international competition before I can really evaluate him. As things stand right now, he has a bigger budget than any of his rivals, and he has Uncle Ralf coaching his every one else in the F4 paddock has F1 level resources at their disposal.

Let's see how the rest of the year pans out, and how the next couple of seasons pan out, before we make judgement calls on whether or not Mick is the real deal like his father.


Not like there won't be seats for both, but I don't see how Mick Schumacher is not on a path to Ferrari or Mercedes. Schumacher name is very strong in F1, and to have it back and at the top is a good thing.

Although, branding being what it is, I sometimes wonder if perhaps some marketing guy somewhere says that the second coming may not be ideal for F1. Points on both sides to be made. In this case my liking of Schumacher in F1 is probably clouding how I see it.


I doubt it will bother Ric - As others have said he'll just keep on doing what he does best which is to drive the wheels off the Red Bull.

No...wait...I'm getting my drivers mixed up - It was Webber who kept driving the wheels off his Red Bull, Ric will just keep on bringing in the good results for a solid 3rd in the championship which - against that Mercedes - is not a bad effort at all 🙂


Webber kept bringing it home 3rd in the WDC standings too. But there was an issue.


So he'll beat Max? Does that make you believe Max is a phenom?


Reading between the ones here, it looks as if the politics are caused by the Verstappen entourage.
He will need to handle that very carefully as we saw how a similar situation with Lewis proved to be a major distraction for him.


Max has a lot to learn about Formula 1 ... we all know that his comment "to be honest" should really have been "for sure"!


- Highly likely scenario is both Kvyat (demoted) and Sainz (not promoted) are out of Toro Rosso next year (both 2 years in the program) and Red Bull wants only winners. History suggests same.
- I would look forward to a more promising talent that just hope they will improve in another team.
- I know this is ruthless but if you at the pinnacle of the sport than expect such things.


The thing is though, Redbull doesn't really have much in the way of young tallent to replace Sainz and Kvyat with. They have Gasly in GP2, but he's a mess. Yea they have guys like Harrison Newey in F3, but he's neither quick enough or old enough yet.


Not to mention the situation in regards to any replacement drivers needing to have enough points to qualify for a F1 super license.


Agreed, but I consider Sainz and Gasly to be a good possibility.


This is why this website keeps drawing readers back; succinct analysis coupled with a personal view from an experienced journalist. The politics of F1 never cease to amaze and provide more of an interest than the cars on track at times. Please keep up the good work James!


Great article, well worth the read 😉
I found it interesting that DR has become a benchmark. I am an unabashed fan of his but still have question marks over what he is and what he will become.
Until Ham and Ros actually duke it out on track, Max v DR will be the most decisive battle this year. Whoever comes out on top will be the undisputed NBT.
As for Kvyat; although this move is by no means the end of his career, I can't help but feel a champion in the making wouldn't find himself in this position.




Ah, next big thing. I obviously need my morning coffee. ..


Interesting justifications for what is going on behind the scenes at RB. It does all seem a bit soon and a bit sudden and could easily end up blowing up in their face. Kvyat has to just beat Vestappen once for RB to look foolish (which is possible considering how close the cars are) and if he starts doing it on a regular bases the fall out will be very entertaining (not bad for a number 2 driver anyone????).

But as has happened before I will probably be wrong and RB have probably got this spot on. I do think that Kvyat struggling to feel comfortable at the main team has as much to do with RB hinting that he wouldn't be keeping his seat unless he wiped the floor with Riciardo.

I do feel sorry for Sainz though. He has been the forgotten man in all of this especially since he has performed very well compared to Verstappen, especially in qualifying. Verstappen has just about edged him but I don't think there is a lot between them. If I was him I'd look at getting off of the RB train as soon as possible because history has shown that it does not look good for him right now...


Qualifying doesn't score points. Verstappen scored 49 points last year, Sainz scored 18. I don't think you can call that performing well comparatively.

A lot of people keep using qualifying only as a comparison to say Sainz is just as good. It's pointless as they were both pushing the STR to it's limit so there's a performance "ceiling" and it doesn't matter in the end if you are in front of the other.


A very insightful and pragmatic appraisal of the situation. Vestappen will have a lot to do for the next few races, he will have to get the momentum going earlier if he has any chance if getting the psychological edge over Ricciardo. Let us remind ourselves that DR is not only the best with tyres in a race, but he is also a great overtaker, smart defender, and also quick over a single lap. Vestappen has a huge mountain to climb. He needs to have an ego as big as Schumi to have any chance of success.



by now you must have seen fp1 in Barcelona, even fp2, hes 15 hundreds behind DR, in not more then 2 hours in his new car, besides that, he broke ALL sim. records at RB. And was already quicker the DR....


Pieter, not a bad start for Max. No doubt about that. Eagerly awaiting qualification to see how it call settles.


Even if it's a logical thing to do for Red bull, It doesn't mean it's any less ruthless for Kvyat. Is transgressions don't warrant such a harsh punishment. He's actually quiet a good driver. He held his own against Daniel R much better than Vettel did,


He's generally half a second slower than Ricciardo. Between teammates that's simply too much.


The headline for this article, "Behind the Kvyat/Verstappen swap: A switch that could work out for all parties"; looks as if it came straight from the media management gurus at Red Bull.
It is ridiculous to not see this as the beginning of the end of Kvyat's short career.
No matter what anybody says to dismiss it, Kvyat scored more points than Daniel Ricciardo in the season they competed against each other, in the same machinery.
It is very clear that if you are not going up at Red Bull, you are going to be left behind. They may not have a better alternative for 2016, but certainly, barring extraordinary driver moves away from Red Bull, Kvyat will be long gone by the start of the 2017 season.
The real reason is NOT because of his on track performance.
The real reason is some intangible, never-to-be-admitted charisma/person presentability combined with the current global media attack on Russia, and all of their representatives on the world stage.
1. The big winner - Carlos Sainz: incredibly overlooked in the PR-frenzied Max Verstappen-friendly environment,and likely operationally disadvantaged; I believe that Sainz is every bit as good as the seemingly justified expectations of Max as a future champion. Out of this shadow, and with the familiarity of the current TR, I expect Sainz to demolish Kvyat.
2. Obviously, Max! His operational and PR machinery assets will likely neutralize the same, Ricciardo's greatest advantage over his teammates. Any manipulations disadvantaging Max will be brought to the fore by his management group. Expectations: SPARKS WILL FLY at Red Bull! In driving talent (note: I'm still admitting that I was one of the strongest critics of allowing Max into F1, since I still believe he was too young to make such a life or death decision), I expect Max to have the measure of Ricciardo by Canada, but much sooner than that, in Spain, I expect internal strife, as the operational advantages that Ricciardo has enjoyed will be challenged immediately by the Verstappen camp (rightly so); Red Bull will likely be able to cover it for Spain, but after that, I expect the gloves to be off!
Go Max go! (hope to see you in Red when Kimi goes)
Go Carlos go!


Would have loved a Kimi victory.
Enjoyed the Kyvat move, passing Ricciardo... immensely.


If Kvyat is done at Redbull and Toro Rosso for 2017, who do you propose would take his seat?


You mean Sainz with all his years in cars. Who is every race the slower driver compaired to Max? Even they days he did not have bad luck.


If Ferrari are so much interested in Verstappen, what has Sainz done wrong not to generate any interest from them? He just had more bad luck compared to Max last year....& this year he seems again on par or if anything not far behind Max anyways.


2015: 49 vs 18 points. 2016: 13 vs 4 points. You can't say that is just because of bad luck. Not to mention, Max has had his share too, he has plenty of engine issues.


Good article James, very informative.
Like the pic at the top;
"What would you do to win the WDC Danil?"
"I would walk 500 miles!"
"And you Max?"
"I would walk 500 more..."


"Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door" ...etc etc




Practice was interesting all eyes on Kyvat and Verstappen.
Both performed according to this situation.

Verstappen was impressive, drove like someone promoted and given the key to the sweet shop. Jumped in the RB and was on it.

Kyvats performance was human as expected. His performance was like someone taken out of the selected class for bright students and demoted to a class of dunces. The impact is pretty hard methinks. It would be for anyone.

Its clearly gonna take time for him to come to terms with this situation as it would anyone.
Hopefully like 'anyone' he'll realise the work/expstation is easier and will start to excel after a few races. Hhope he can impress enough to move on to a new team.

Sainz.... Well FP2 he did the 'I'm still here' dance. Very impressive, hope he carries that through the weekend - make hay while the scopes on them.


James, do you really think that the second incident between DK and Seb in Russia was Daniil's fault? Your wording in the article implies that.

If so I'm absolutely stunned.


On it's own, no. But the first incident should have made Kvyatt extra cautious and anticipate more.


The first one definitely was and as Vettel tried to work out if he had a puncture or not and did not accelerate as normal, Kvyat hit him again.

It's generally the fault of teh guy behind when that happens, but the second one was more debatable than the first hit, certainly


Excellent feature, James. Shall we then expect for Toro Rosso two rookies in 2017, as is customary?


If they don't one could question Toro Rossi's purpose in F1. Problem is, they don't have a lot lined up at the moment. Not that convinced about Gasly.


Quite frankly I find this article even more disturbing because it (probably correctly) highlights 2 things :- 1) the Power of the Verstappens 2) the problems within Toro Rosso. Both of which indicate what Daniil may have been "keeping to himself" at the press conference.

Firstly, I must say Im sure Max is the real deal (as no doubt RBR do). He has the speed, he has the talent and what really surprises me is just how confident he comes accross in public- its actually stronger & smarter than most of the drivers including some experienced ones - he doesnt ramble / hes straight to point and coy when he needs to be. I still dont believe this validates the enormous power they have to question technical teams / have them let go - if thats whats suggested here!.-- it doesnt even happen with WDC let alone 18 yo it really is incredible. I hope thats not the case.

2ndly if there are significant changes within Toro Rosso- Im afraid this will only hurt Kvyats prospects (&its already possibly showing in FP in Spain.) If there is a problem within the team I seriously doubt its the function of a young driver to resolve it - let alone not be effected by it. Brave and dignified as be was to suggest as much.

Like a said days ago -'careful what you wish' for because Max was already on Ricciardos pace in FP. Im still very disappointed by the medias hyping it up.. Clearly the Verstappens had a master plan & didnt need all the extra hype the media had made if it. I still dont understand why some people put Kvyat down so much if he was already going to be cut down so badly. It seems James likes a bad story as much as the next guy and if he can play a part to support a big teams process and his interest he will.. Disappointing


Elie: while I don't agree with everything you write, I appreciate your insight; thanks.


I find your last line disappointing.

If you don't understand what this post is saying and the perspective it is coming from, then you really are wasting your time reading on this site.


Yes I am for thanks for everything


Agree with You James
It was like always a balanced article! I really liked your bull decision is hard but fair...everyone is after that kid and if they didn't make a move he would be somewhere max needs to prove if all the hype is true..
James where do you rate sainz compared to max? He seems like mini Alonso to me...what do you think


Very good driver needs some results to steady the ship but he's rated by other teams


Such as beating your team mate & scoring podiums


Red Bull should start all four of its drivers stood by the pitwall, out of the cars. Then when everyone else goes on the formation lap, they each race on foot to get in whichever empty RB/TR car they can.


Ha ha. Sainz would probably make it to the RB first then as he leapt in, Jos Verstappen would use the force (he's that powerful, I mean to be certain of a 2017 RB seat no matter of the 15/16 performances, so he must be able to use the force) to move the RB beside Max, because Sainz is that unlucky.

Did anyone notice at the last race, Carlos passed Max down in turn 1 at the start then was baulked right behind the 2nd Vettel Kyvat hit and had to back off, whereas Max a bit further back drove off track to the right (whilst Lewis did the off track left side after having to cut the corner and bollard) allowing Max to breeze past Carlos, Seb, Dani, Perez...

Unlucky for now Sainz, but will TAG ever be able to compete with Ferrari, let alone a works Merc PU, no matter how good the RB aero is. If so will Max and his Daddy's entourage want to hang around, or will he hav a definite Merc works seat with number 1 status already in the bag 😉


I would watch that!


They should do this for every car on the grid with every driver at every race. That would solve the mixed up grid problem and supremacy from two drivers in the same car over the rest of the field. It's even better than a ballot. ????

Also it would force the governing body to abandon the canopy/halo cockpit protection as they will need the drivers to get in the cars quickly......


Is it possible that one engineering team ridiculed the other team because they had a child as a driver at the beginning of 2015? Also because Sainz was the first half of 2015 faster than Verstappen and competitiveness between the engineering teams was only intensified when Max turned the tide in the second half of the 2015 season. For example, I can Imagine that the engineering team of verstappen ridicule the other team just to get even because of the beginning of 2015 and so on the competition between the teams just got more and more intensive.....


I like how to call them the "Verstappens". Certainly father and son are very pragmatic and fast moving. This whole saga also puts Jos in a different light after a terrible f1 career and some private off track scuffles that gave him negative reputation in the Netherlands.

On another topic: Heineken is rumoured to make an entry in F1. Would that have anything to do with this move? Is Heineken a potential major sponsor for RBR? Would that at all be a possible combination? Red Bull and beer brand on same car?


Hi James, you mention that Grosjean worked on his peripheral vision. Do you have any details on this as I'm interested whether that was a red herring, or a genuine problem he had?


It was real and I know Jackie Stewart helped direct him to the right person


Wow, thank you. I take back all that I said to the people I thought were talking nonsense about this (even though they were still really speculating). I could do with some of the treatment so I can see what my son is up to when he thinks I can't see him...


It's not easy to be objective as a Dutch. Sometimes I think Max has to be overrated, it's simple to good to be true. His career is like a fairy tale. But if you're looking back some years I could not find any dip in its performance in the past. He was once invited by Ferrari as a talent to follow a kind of training . Found this report on the Internet Yes , he has to learn a lot , but honestly, you would say no if RBR offered you a chair ? Apperenly they saw something in him at Ferrari when he was 16 years old ......... Mercedes offered him a seat on his 17th as a test driver and Red Bull gave him a chair in the racing season at TR on his 17th. These are three great teams in F1 which, I think, do not rely on vague assumptions. Despite the pressure , and not a really strong and sometimes unreliable engine , he has a good season in his 17th. He must now make a step in his development to the level of DR. I do not know if he will succeed , but so far he does not bad. For me , especially as a Dutchman , it's nice to follow , especially at the highest race level, the F1. The harsh reality may be that Max gets a DK treatment if he does not perform. Then he is not good enough , simple. But, as the English say: No nuts, no glory.......... Forgive me , and sorry for DK, Sunday I will sit on the edge of the couch !


Must have been some sort of contract clause saying max had to step up to red bull by next year or he could sign a pre contract with someone else.
It makes perfect sense to swap the drivers like this. You see how good they all are now compared to each other . Why wait till the end of the year when you can do it now?
someone would have gone before a wheel was turned next year.
maybe the wrong one!
who know's maybe nobody will leave torro rosso for a change.
Its more embarrassing for Kvyat that people keep banging on that it's 'so unfair!' like some sort of teenager and the press gleefully say demotion at every opportunity lol.


Enjoyed reading your assessment, James.
I do prefer such articles where you provide your view/analysis.

Personally, I find the move logical ONLY if Riccardo is on his way out at the end of season or has an exit clause which RedBull suspects he might trigger just like Vettel did.

But as per Redbull, Riccardo is going no where. In that case, Verstappen might end up being an unhappy man.
I'm sure most people would expect Riccardo to beat Verstappen during the course of this season. And so far, I'm not sure if he has handled defeat from team-mate in the right way at Torro Rosso.

What if that leads to same sort of friction/ politics which we have witnessed at Torro Rosso?
But then again, Verstappen might have different plans and actually shock us by exceeding expectations.

As for Kvyat, I'm afraid Mr. Marko has already sealed his fate. It's a matter of WHEN, not IF.


@ james allen.. Nice read.

What is ricciardo's contractual situation for 2017 if he's contract is not water tight then there is a vacant seat at ferrari in 2017 and if not max then i suspect ricciardo is making a move to ferrari for 2017.

Kieran Pieters

James, complements on an excellent analyses.


So James do we know if a team of team personnel were fired at RB?


Great article James. I still think the timing of the move was ruthless given the podium in China, but it certainly puts things into perspective (and serves as a nice reminder of the political landscape of F1)! I feel like the 2017 silly season has already begun...


Hi James,

Excellent article first off. Just a question on top of your take on the situation as a whole, do you consider the performance between DR vs DK as inclusive of the switch at all as it is not mentioned? Yet it is mentioned by several sources including Horner/Marko/Mark Hughes.

Mark Hughes ran a similar article that showed that the performance of DR has always been better than DK for the most part - despite what the WDC standings says - and I highly agree.

It seems logical to me from an RBR point of view (along with the contractual issues) that if you have 4 drivers in the pool, you would always want the two fastest ones in your lead team. CS is no slouch as his qualifying against MV but does not capitalize in Q3 on Saturdays or make the most of Sundays.

It was similar to JEV in my opinion. Many fans always thought he did well against DR but it was a misconception as he had one of the worse qualifying head-to-head records with one of the biggest qualifying gaps between team-mates. DR also had double the amount of top 10 finishes and in dry conditions the gap in points was highly in DR's favour. Yet JEV's performance vs. DR by some fans have always been driven by the 2012 points table - similar to that of DR vs. DK last year.

To me, it was always inevitable that DK was never going to hold onto his seat, if not by the contractual situation with MV, then with his actual performances as well.


Yes of course. Red Bull monitor performance constantly and Horner referenced that yesterday in the Press Conference.

You are on the money with what you say. It was a factor, as was the feeling with the team. But he is rated by other teams so there is hope


And has just proved he is cool under all circumstances.. Way to go Max..

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