Red Bull Racing has announced it is promoting Max Verstappen to its team from the sister Toro Rosso outfit with immediate effect from the Spanish Grand Prix, replacing Daniil Kvyat.
The 18 year-old, who made his F1 debut last season as the youngest driver to start and score in the sport, has repeatedly impressed in the Toro Rosso 'B' team and has long been touted for a move to the main Red Bull outfit from 2017.
However, this has been accelerated to just four rounds into the 2016 season, with the Dutchman set to join Daniel Ricciardo in Barcelona before seeing out the remainder of the year with the British-based Austrian team.
Discussing the surprise move, team principal Christian Horner said Verstappen – who was on course for his fourth consecutive top ten finish in the most recent Russian Grand Prix before technical issues intervened – has demonstrated he is ready for the pressure of competing in the four-time title winning outfit.
“Max has proven to be an outstanding young talent. His performance at Toro Rosso has been impressive so far and we are pleased to give him the opportunity to drive for Red Bull Racing.
“We are in the unique position to have all four drivers across Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso under long term contracts with Red Bull, so we have the flexibility to move them between the two teams.
Verstappen's move costs Kvyat his spot in the team and comes just days after he was roundly lambasted by rivals and his own team-mate Ricciardo for his role in a lap one shunt that eliminated Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
As a result, Kvyat – who also has Red Bull's only podium of the season following a third place in China – will return to the Toro Rosso team he made his F1 debut with in 2014 alongside Carlos Sainz. In his time at Red Bull, he scored two podiums and out-scored Ricciardo last year.
“Dany will be able to continue his development at Toro Rosso, in a team that he is familiar with, giving him the chance to regain his form and show his potential.”
Though Kvyat's actions in Russia are likely to be a factor in the shock change of strategy for Red Bull, it is also likely to be seen as a way of staving off attention from rival teams. It is known Ferrari has expressed an interest in Verstappen and it is believed Red Bull had to exercise an option to promote him for 2017 regardless or face teams making a swoop for him..