Matador no more - Klien bids Red Bull farewell 15 Sep 2006
Christian Klien has thanked Red Bull for his time with the team, following this weeks confirmation that he will be replaced by third driver Robert Doornbos for the last three races of the season, before Mark Webber steps into his shoes fulltime in 07. Kliens departure marks the end of a partnership dating back to the very start of his Formula One career with Jaguar.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the Red Bull team for their cooperation in the past two years, said Klien in a statement. Those words followed a personal phone call to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, in which the Austrian politely declined his offer of alternative employment.
That offer was a Red Bull-funded drive in the US-based Champ Car series. But Klien, who hopes to land another Formula One seat for next year, chose to turn it down as the September 9 deadline for a decision neared. As a result, Red Bull agreed to immediately release him from his contract, freeing him to pursue alternative plans.
I appreciate Red Bulls decision to annul my current contract, said Klien. This will allow me to continue the current ongoing discussions regarding my Formula One options as an independent driver, free of any contractual obligations. I am now fully focused on the talks for my existing Formula One options.
The Austrian has enjoyed a close relationship with Red Bull since his earliest karting days. After Formula Renault and Formula 3, Klien landed his first Formula One drive with Jaguar in 2004. A year later and Red Bull had bought the team, keeping Klien on in an unusual arrangement that saw him sharing his race seat with Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Strong performances - including a fifth place in the Chinese Grand Prix - meant he went on to secure exclusive occupancy of that seat for 2006. However, while team mate David Coulthard was taking the glory this season with Red Bulls first podium, a string of disappointing results for Klien eventually led to the decision to replace him for next season.
So what now for Klien? At 23 he is still young by Formula One standards and the Austrian insists he has other options available for 2007. Whether those are testing roles with larger teams, or race seats with smaller outfits, remains to be seen. Either way Klien has promised to reveal all by the end of the season.