May 13 (GMM) Daniel Ricciardo on Thursday said he was taken by surprise when he saw on his mobile last week that Dr Helmut Marko was calling from Graz.
When you see that, “You know that something is up,” the Australian smiled in Barcelona.
Marko told Ricciardo that he has a new teammate in the form of Max Verstappen. “Honestly I would have expected it in the second half of the season, not so early,” he said.
That Red Bull was looking for a place in the premier team for Verstappen, however – amid Ferrari and Mercedes’ interest – was common knowledge in the paddock.
“Make no mistake,” said team boss Christian Horner, “he’s one of the hottest properties in formula one at the moment.
“I think this kills off the driver market regarding Red Bull drivers, certainly for the foreseeable future,” he added.
But Ricciardo also said he should not be surprised that Red Bull is ramping up the pressure on all four of its drivers in F1.
“It’s to put the drivers under pressure to see what they’re made of,” he said. “They did the same with Vettel and me.
“Personally, I’m not worried about pressure from teammates. I see Max as another challenge but I have enough confidence in my abilities,” Ricciardo insisted.
“I think they hope he can push me and I can push him and we can be a strong duo for years to come. I guess that’s the vision,” he added.
As suggested by Ricciardo, Vettel knows the squeeze of the Red Bull programme. “I think they spend a lot of money promoting young talent,” said the German.
“Clearly there is pressure and you have to deliver. Whether you succeed depends on many factors.”
One factor, undoubtedly, is politics, and Kvyat indicated that he might have been caught off-guard on this occasion.
“I learned quite a lot in the last few days, last few weeks and it’s made me very strong,” said the Russian.
Mercedes’ world champion Lewis Hamilton worries that the Red Bull machine might actually be too harsh on drivers like Kvyat.
“I hope it doesn’t hinder either of their careers,” he said, also referring to Verstappen, “because they’ve got bright futures ahead of them.
“Too much pressure, too much stress, too much expectation too early on can lead the wrong way,” Hamilton added.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas concluded: “I like Kvyat. I think he’s a good guy.
“It’s a shame for him,” he told Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo, “but it’s a team decision and this is formula one.”