Red Bull Racing have claimed that their decision to draft in Vitantonio Liuzzi for the San Marino Grand Prix was prompted because they need to know just how good the Italian is, rather than because they feel Christian Klien has not done a good enough job this year
Klien's impressive performances in the first three races of the year has left some onlookers baffled about why he would be dropped by the team, but sporting director Christian Horner has defended the move by insisting that promoting Liuzzi was essential to getting a gauge of his ultimate potential.
"We are very fortunate to have two extremely talented young Red Bull Junior drivers contracted to the team," said Horner. "However, 2005 is a building year for Red Bull Racing and the only way to see a driver's true potential is over the course of a full race weekend.
"Christian has performed faultlessly for the team during the first three events, culminating in two point scoring races. This decision is in no way a reflection on his ability, but simply an opportunity for the team to evaluate his counterpart and allow him to gain experience.
During the next three races we will get a clear indication of Tonio's potential at three circuits where he won in F3000 last year."
Klien expressed obvious disappointment about his demotion from the race team but has refused to criticise their strategy on swapping their second driver.
"Coming into this season it was always made clear to me that Tonio would get his opportunity to race. I feel that I have done a good job in the first three races and I am pleased with my performance, qualifying no lower than seventh in all three races and scoring points in Australia and Malaysia.
"As a racing driver, of course I want to race and I am sure I will find it very difficult to watch from the pits. But I have always understood the reasons behind this strategy and I am comfortable with it. I wish Tonio the very best of luck and will do all I can to help him and the team."
Liuzzi himself added: "I am very happy to get this chance to race in Formula One, which has always been my target since I started racing. It is particularly exciting for me to have my first race at my home Grand Prix in Imola. This is a great opportunity for me and of course, I hope to make the best of it.
"Christian has done a great job in the first three races and it is clear that our car has good potential. It will be great having to get up early on a Saturday and have something to do!"
The Liuzzi decision means that David Coulthard will have to work with a new teammate from Imola and, although he got on well with Klien at the start of the season, he is equally excited about the prospect of a new challenge.
"I know Christian will naturally be disappointed not to be driving in Imola, but he can be very satisfied with his 'coming of age' as a Formula One driver," said the Briton.
"As it was clear that they would be sharing the car from the start of the season, it makes sense for Tonio to make his debut in Imola, a track he knows and has won at in Formula 3000. I remember very well my Grand Prix debut and I look forward to sharing that special moment with him."
Liuzzi will be guaranteed the race seat for the next three Grands Prix, with a decision about whether Klien will be drafted back into the team due to made prior to the European Grand Prix.
Red Bull have also not decided yet who will be their third driver for the next three races.
After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. BEN ANDERSON looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…
Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?
For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak
The longer Red Bull can maintain a performance edge over Mercedes, the better the odds will be in the team’s favour against the defending world champions. But as the Bahrain Grand Prix showed, many more factors will be critical in the outcome of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship
Nikita Mazepin’s Formula 1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix lasted mere corners before he wiped himself out in a shunt, but his financial backing affords him a full season. Back in 1993 though, Marco Apicella was an F1 driver for just 800m before a first corner fracas ended his career. Here’s the story of his very short time at motorsport’s pinnacle
Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton took victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix despite, for a change, not having the quickest car. But any hopes of developing its W12 to surpass Red Bull's RB16B in terms of outright speed could not have come at a worse time.