Another race. Another Verstappen incident. Another wave of fans defending the young gun. He’s ruined his and Red Bull’s race results through self-error in every single race during 2018. Maybe it’s time for him to take a sabbatical?
Red Bull have proved before that they aren’t afraid to switch their drivers around; Daniil Kvyat was replaced by Verstappen for the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix onwards after the Russian made a name for himself at the beginning of the season.
Is this situation any different?
In Australia, Verstappen finished in P6 after picking up early damage and then embarrassingly spinning in the first corner. His race in Bahrain was ended by driveshaft damage caused by a self-inflicted collision with Lewis Hamilton.
And, today? Verstappen was ahead of eventual race winner Daniel Ricciardo for the majority of the Grand Prix. He had the same tyres as his team mate, who pulled an eight-second gap on second-placed Valtteri Bottas. Could Verstappen have won today? Absolutely!
But it was his own mistakes! He attempted an audacious move and was lucky not to wipe Lewis Hamilton out. Then, he wasn’t so lucky in turn 14, when his extremely late dive didn’t work out, and left him and Sebastian Vettel spun the wrong way. Verstappen rightfully copped a 10-second penalty for the ridiculous incident.
“This was really bad,” 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg said. “A little difficult to understand … and unnecessary.”
Compare that with Kvyat. In Australia, 2016, he couldn’t even start the race through no fault of his own. Bahrain was a strong P7 recovery drive for the Russian, after he was caught out by Formula 1’s controversial new qualifying system.
In China, Kvyat earned the nickname ‘Torpedo’ after completing an aggressive, yet legal move up the inside of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, which ultimately gifted the Russian his, and Red Bull’s, first podium of the season.
In the next race, the Russian Grand Prix, Kvyat’s career went downhill after another run-in with Sebastian Vettel. This time, the Russian did cause an accident with Vettel, and he was penalized duly for it.
It was his first, huge major mistake of the season.
But, it was too much for Red Bull, who demoted the Russian to Toro Rosso for the rest of the season, allowing Verstappen to move up to the top team and ultimately solidify his exciting & aggressive reputation. Boy, he even won his first Grand Prix at Red Bull Racing.
Admittedly, one of the bigger problems with Kvyat versus Verstappen was their raw pace. Kvyat was clearly slower when he was demoted. In the two races of 2016 where Kvyat and team-mate Ricciardo can realistically be compared, the Russian was 5 and 3 tenths slower during qualifying.
Hindsight easily tells you that the decision to promote Verstappen was the right one. But, at the time, nobody could’ve predicted he would perform quite as well as he did. He had talent, but at that stage, people still said Kvyat did.
Arguably, the situation at the moment is similar. Red Bull still have Carlos Sainz contracted, and there’s no reason to suggest that the Spaniard would be majorly worse than Verstappen.
Although Verstappen’s raw talent cannot be denied, it’s more frustrating to see that he seems to have free reign to do what he wants, when he wants, without the risk of being dropped to Toro Rosso.
Dany Kvyat didn’t make headlines for being 18, and thus didn’t have the same position within the team. It’s as if Max controls the team, instead of the team controlling Max.
In the simplest form, Kvyat made a few mistakes and got demoted, Verstappen’s made quite a few, and I doubt there will be any chance of him going to Toro Rosso.
Why on earth can’t a well-rounded Red Bull driver such as Carlos Sainz replace him for these childish, reckless accidents?