By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Former champions Red Bull replaced Daniil Kvyat with Dutch hotshot Max Verstappen on Thursday in a team shake-up that punished the Russian for a nightmare home grand prix last weekend.
Kvyat will now return to the Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso sister team that he graduated from in 2014 while 18-year-old Verstappen moves up alongside Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
The next race, and fifth round of the Formula One season, is the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on May 15.
"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," said team principal Christian Horner.
"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," he added.
"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."
Verstappen, son of former racer Jos, is considered by many to be a future Formula One world champion and Red Bull had been expected to promote him anyway at the end of the season.
Kvyat, still only 22, is the only Russian currently on the starting grid but has become embroiled in controversy.
He has clashed twice in two races with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, the four times world champion whose place he took at Red Bull, and has struggled to match Ricciardo's pace.
Vettel branded him a 'madman' in China last month for an overtake at the start that triggered a collision between the Ferraris.
Most fans sided with Kvyat, and he was named Driver of the Day after finishing third, but he had no defenders after colliding twice with Vettel in Sochi last weekend.
That accident also ruined Ricciardo's race.
"The bottom line is he misjudged it, he hit the back of Seb, that concertina-ed into Daniel and that was pretty much the end of our afternoon," Horner said then.
Third-placed Red Bull failed to score in Sochi, their first blank of 2016, while Williams made up ground with both cars finishing in the top 10.
Kvyat is eighth overall with 21 points while Verstappen is 10th with 13. The points are unaffected.
(Editing by John O'Brien)