Sebastian Vettel believes Red Bull’s decision to swap Formula 1 drivers Max Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat was taken before the Russian Grand Prix.
After scoring his first podium of the season in China, Kvyat collided with Vettel twice at the start in Sochi, with the second hit sending the Ferrari into the wall.
Between the Russian and Spanish Grands Prix, Red Bull announced it was promoting Verstappen to its senior team with Kvyat moving back to Toro Rosso.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with what happened in Sochi as I learned it had been decided beforehand,” Vettel told reporters at Barcelona. “It’s a great chance for Max, not a nice call for Daniil but you should ask the people who are responsible and involved.”
After retiring in Sochi, Vettel went over to the Red Bull pitwall to speak to team principal Christian Horner.
“I went to him, it was clear what happened and I said to him please have a word with him,” said the German. “It is racing and it happens … but that’s it. I couldn’t speak to Daniil because he was in the car, but I think [Horner] spoke to him after.”
Vettel admitted that his emotions boiled over after the race and praised Kvyat for calling later to apologize.
“He had the guts to pick up the phone, call me and apologize, or explain what happened,” he said. “He realized 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.”
In terms of talent, Vettel said he still rates the Russian and thinks he has a place in F1.
“I think very highly of Daniil,” he said. “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.”
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo said it was not his place to look out for former teammate Kvyat and that it wasn’t necessary for the team to give him an explanation for the swap.
“It’s not my place to look out for Dani or any teammate,” said the Australian. “The people who think that one bad race … or let’s say one eventful race for Dani was the reason he is not racing us for this weekend … yeah, it doesn’t happen in one race, you know. Christian knows I’ve seen it in the past before in that I’ve had teammates who have gone mid-season. So it didn’t really need much of an explanation.
“I would agree things like this in the past have worked for Red Bull, so I don’t disagree with it. I don’t disagree with their method of trying to push us to our limits. Did Dani deserve for it to happen rather than in the summer or something like that? It’s not my place. I don’t have a black-or-white answer.”