Sebastian Vettel has suggested Red Bull Racing's move to demote Daniil Kvyat from its driver line-up had nothing to do with his calamitous Russian Grand Prix because the decision to drop him had already been made.
Four-time world champion Vettel has endured a fractious relationship with Kvyat – who replaced him at Red Bull in 2015 – this season after blaming the Russian for forcing him into Kimi Raikkonen at the start of the Chinese Grand Prix before the two came together definitively at the start of the Russian Grand Prix.
Since then, Red Bull has opted to promote Max Verstappen, with Kvyat returning to the Toro Rosso team he made his F1 bow with in 2014 from this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.
With many viewing his Russian GP faux pas as a major factor in the decision to swap the two drivers, Vettel has instead suggested it was in fact a decision made beforehand.
“I don't think it has anything to do with what happened in Sochi as I learned it had been decided beforehand,” he replied when asked whether his expletive-laden reaction to his exit in Russia had contributed to Red Bull's decision.
“I don't know everyone's way and I don't know what the reasons are for the swap. But I don't think it's related to what happened in Russia or China.”
Revealing Kvyat had the 'balls' to apologise to him personally after the race in Sochi, Vettel nonetheless feels his rival still has the chance to show his ability in a competitive Toro Rosso package and 'deserves to be in F1'.
“The last race is not the best example for Daniil,” he continued. “Unlike some of his colleagues, he had the balls to give me a call in the afternoon and tell me what happened from his point of view. He realised 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. Of course mistakes happen. This is why we are here, we are all pushing to the limit. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Whether now it's a better line up for them, for sure it's bad news for Daniil and good news for Max.
“Generally, I think very highly of Daniil. 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.”