Daniil Kvyat was watching Game of Thrones from his Moscow sofa when he received the call that confirmed his power and place in Red Bull’s Formula One empire had been dramatically clipped.
Dr Helmut Marko, the team’s kingmaker, was the unwelcome voice on the phone.This was one of several revelations in a tense, awkward press conference yesterday (Thursday) at the Circuit de Catalunya, as Kvyat came face to face with Max Verstappen, who, at only just 18, is replacing him at Red Bull from this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Sat next to each other in the front row, the pair barely exchanged a glance as they tried to tread a fine line between asserting their own worth without criticising the other.
As the man who had been dumped, Kvyat had a fair bit more to say.
The Russian flag with a portrait of Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat, waving as a spectator watches the qualifying session for the Russian Grand Prix earlier this year. Picture/AP
The only man not stunned by the timing was Sebastian Vettel, who was hit twice by Kvyat in the first lap of the previous race, in Russia.The 22-year-old said he had received little explanation from Red Bull and that his demotion came as a major surprise.
The German, a four-time champion with Red Bull, believes the decision was made even before Kvyat finished on the podium in China last month.
“At least he had the guts to ring me and apologise after,” Vettel said to the Russian’s credit.
Kvyat said: “It was a bit of a shock. There was no real explanation. If the bosses want something to happen they just make it happen. I feel like I did everything for the team, bringing in the points, doing development work. We’ve been working well together, so it’s a question for other people who made the decision and who can give a betteranswer to that. So I really don’t see any reason.”
Kvyat provoked roars of laughter when he explained the circumstances of his demise.
The tagline to the hugely popular show is: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”
Kvyat’s F1 career is not quite dead, but he certainly is clinging on for dear life.
Returned to Toro Rosso, he has 17 races this season to prove he deserves a place.Another chance at Red Bull is out of the question, as it would be too big an admission of poor judgment for the team to backtrack.
ToroRosso exist only to train drivers, so Kvyat needs to convince another team principal he is worth a drive.
Christian Horner, Red Bull principal, admitted that the decision was “harsh” on Kvyat, but was beaming at Verstappen’s potential.
“He’s one of the most exciting things in F1 at the moment,” Horner said.
“It was a harsh decision, but as far as Red Bull is concerned it kills off the driver market.”
For once Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso sat at the back of the press conference with barely a question to answer.
Asked for his view on Red Bull’s ruthlessness, defending champion Hamilton said: “Red Bull has done well in bringing young talent forward, but they need to be aware young drivers need time to progress. Mistakes do happen ...”
Kvyat is not the only young driver feeling the pressure. Englishman Jolyon Palmer is facing rumours that Renault could drop him in the mid-season.
But the 25-year-old said he had been given assurances that his contract to the end of the season would be honoured.