Ex-Red Bull driver lifts lid on being ruthlessly replaced by Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen has proved a sensational addition to the F1 roster, although not everyone has fond memories of his arrival. Verstappen, now 24, joined Toro Rosso for the 2015 season before leaving for Red Bull midway through the next campaign, and at just 18 duly became the youngest ever winner of an F1 Grand Prix.

He was with Christian Horner’s team from the start of the 2017 campaign, and following four years of progress, is now just five races away from beating seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to the F1 drivers’ crown.

Verstappen was victorious at Sunday’s US Grand Prix in Austin, holding off his British rival in a thrilling finale to extend his overall lead to 12 points. The Dutch driver now has to negotiate races in Mexico, Brazil, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi in what promises to be a thrilling climax to the campaign.

Whether Jean-Eric Vergne is enjoying the enthralling action though, is open to debate.

The French driver was the man who was ruthlessly dismissed by Toro Rosso, the sister team of Red Bull Racing with both being owned by the same company, to pave the way for Dutch star Verstappen.

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And on the Beyond the Grid podcast, the 31-year-old described how events unfolded at the Italian team shortly after the culmination of the 2014 season.

“In the summer I was called and told that I would be replaced by a younger driver. I knew that was Max Verstappen,” he said.

“That’s just how the game works, there was no more room at Red Bull Racing. I hadn’t spoken to any other team because I belonged to the Red Bull family, that was maybe a mistake on my part.”

Vergne admitted it was his ambition to make the natural step up from Toro Rosso, but Red Bull’s Helmut Marko had other ideas.

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“I was at Toro Rosso to go to Red Bull one day,” he admitted. “After three years, there was no place available and Helmut Marko told me it was over at the end of the year. I was happy that he told me so early in the season, but at the same time it was also my biggest problem that it was announced so early.”

Indeed, an unlikely turn of events then seemed to re-open a door for Vergne, but it was one that was duly slammed shut.

“After all, if Sebastian Vettel decided to go to Ferrari, it would have looked bad to then bring me to Red Bull,” he added.

When Vettel did opt to leave, Daniil Kvyat moved ‘across’ to replace him, but the new vacant slot at Toro Rosso was instead taken by Carlos Sainz.

Vergne is still clearly riled by the developments, arguing if Marko had waited until the end of the season he would have seen he was “in a better position that Kvyat.”

He did then spend two years at Ferrari as a test and development driver, but never raced in F1 again.

In 2017, he joined the Andretti Autosport team to compete in Formula E before going on to win two Formula E championships.

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