A rather awkward drivers’ press conference in Barcelona in which Max Verstappen was pointedly seated alongside Daniil Kvyat – the man he’s just replaced at Red Bull – still wasn’t nearly enough to dampen the Dutch driver’s high spirits heading into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
“I’m very happy with the chance they have given me,” Verstappen said of his sudden promotion from Toro Rosso to the senior Red Bull team following the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.
“It is not easy with midway through a season but the things I’ve already done at the factory have given me a lot of confidence. It will come race by race but I will definitely enjoy it.”
Verstappen denied that it was now him rather than Kvyat – who will return to Toro Rosso for the rest of the season – that would now be under intense pressure and in the spotlight heading into his first race as a Red Bull Racing driver.
“I’m racing for a top team which was always the plan and what I wanted to do. I think it was a bigger risk to be so young making my debut in Formula One but I thought I handled it pretty well and now it is about getting used to a new car.”
Speculation in the paddock has suggested that Verstappen’s abrupt promotion to Red Bull came about not because of Kvyat’s high profile clash with Sebastian Vettel in Sochi but rather because the squad felt it had to act quickly to fend off rival teams keen to steal Verstappen from under their noses.
If retaining Verstappen’s services was indeed one of the priorities for swapping the two drivers, then it appears to have been successful.
“I’ve always been very happy with Red Bull and now they have given me a chance to be in the top team there is no reason to change,” Verstappen confirmed.
“I think so far Red Bull has guided me in the right way and I feel very comfortable. If you are happy you can perform even better so I hope to keep it that way.”
“I will try to continue like that as I’m very happy at the moment.”
Verstappen wouldn’t be drawn on how he felt that Kvyat’s perceived demotion – “it is not up to me who deserves which race seat” – and had nothing but praise about his new team mate Daniel Ricciardo.
“He [Ricciardo] is a great guy, very fast and has a lot of experience in the team so I will try to learn a lot from him.”
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