Daniil Kvyat’s Route to F1

Route to F1

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Somewhat overlooked amid the surprising news two weeks ago of Sebastian Vettel’s impending departure from Red Bull was the astonishing rise of the man who will replace him.

Twelve months ago Daniil Kvyat didn’t even have an F1 seat. But last weekend he arrived at his home grand prix not only as a grand prix driver – but one with a Red Bull contract in his pocket for 2015.

How did the Russian driver rise to the top so quickly from a country with little motor racing tradition? Red Bull’s young driver development programme explains much of it, but his ascent through their ranks was not straightforward either.

Vettel had just delivered Red Bull’s first race victory in April 2009 when Kvyat burst upon the European karting scene in the KF3 category. He finished third at his first attempt and took second in the WSK International series. He also brushed up on his Italian, one of the four languages spoken by the native of the republic of Bashkortostan:

The results caught the attention of former CART team boss Antonio Ferrari, who picked up the promising young Russian for a 2010 Formula BMW campaign in both the Pacific and European divisions of the sport.

As a guest driver in the Pacific category, Kvyat was not eligible for points towards the driver’s championship but impressed with five podium finishes from just eight races and established himself as the cream of the crop when it came to upcoming Russian talent.

It was also enough for the Koiranen team – whose previous drivers include ran Valtteri Bottas – to be convinced to enter Kvyat in the final race of the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup championship. Although that outing was unsuccessful, they entered him in the UK winter series, where he placed fourth with podiums at Snetterton and Pembrey. Ultimately, the move to Koiranen was to prove highly beneficial to Kvyat’s future career.

At the start of 2011 Koiranen became an official Red Bull junior team feeding the Austrian energy drinks company’s driver development program. The new owners saw fit to retain Kvyat alongside their own protege Carlos Sainz Jnr, starting a fierce but respectful rivalry between the two young men.

In the Northern European Cup Kvyat took an impressive seven victories during the season, including a hat trick at Monza at the end of the year, but it wasn’t enough to overturn the lead Sainz had built in the first half of the season – the pair were separated by 48 points at the end of the year.

Sainz also bested Kvyat in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup series, but neither could beat Robin Frijns who outscored third-placed Kvyat by 90 points.

A third year of Formula Renault 2.0 racing with Koiranen brought mixed results. A fierce battle with Norman Nato in the Alps category included emphatic victories in both races of the first meeting at Monza:

Further wins at Spa, the Red Bull Ring and Mugello ensured Kvyat ended the year celebrating his first championship crown since his karting days by just three points.

In the prestigious Eurocup category Kvyat fought a season-long duel with Stoffel Vandoorne. Kvyat had quickly established himself as a rival to be feared, with a particularly eye-catching performance in tricky conditions at Motorland Aragon:

After taking Vandoorne’s championship lead with impressive back-to-back wins on home turf at the new Moscow Raceway, Kvyat went into the final race of the year at the Circuit de Catalunya 14 points behind his rival. Few could have expected the twists and turns which lay in store for the pair in the final race.

A rain-hit qualifying session saw Kvyat take pole position with Vandoorne 16th of the 37 cars. When Vandoorne retired early on with broken suspension, Kvyat looked on course to dramatically snatch the title from his helpless rival.

Even when Kvyat was handed a drive-through penalty for changing to wet weather tyres after the five-minute warning was given, fortune was on his side. He was far enough ahead only to fall to third place, and thanks to the Safety Car was able to regain some lost ground.

But wet weather tyres on a drying track finally proved Kvyat’s undoing. He slipped to eighth at the flag and Vandoorne held on to the title:

Nevertheless, a competitive year had snared Kvyat a berth at Christian Horner’s MW Arden team in GP3 for 2013. The season began slowly – he didn’t score in the opening weekend in Spain and was point-less in Germany too. Kvyat finally started to get into his stride at Spa, where he won:

He also appeared as a guest driver in European F3 with Carlin, where he scored one win and five podium finishes despite not being eligible for championship points.

When Mark Webber announced his retirement from Formula One it set in motion the chain of events which led to Kvyat becoming only the second Russian grand prix driver, following in the Vitaly Petrov’s footsteps.

However Red Bull’s choice of Kvyat to replace Daniel Ricciardo, who graduated from Toro Rosso to Red Bull, came as a surprise to many. Antonio Felix da Costa had been widely regarded as Red Bull’s next driver in line for an F1 seat.

But Kvyat quickly provided justification for Toro Rosso’s decision. He clinched the GP3 title in Abu Dhabi with his second perfect performance of the year, scored every point available for pole position, fastest lap, leading a lap and winning the race:

His reward for a superb season was to take the wheel of Toro Rosso’s F1 challenger in free practice for the United States Grand Prix, gaining experience ahead of his debut at this year’s Australian Grand Prix, where he became F1’s youngest ever points scorer.

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30 comments on “Daniil Kvyat’s Route to F1”

  1. Thanks for the interesting article @anthonyfrench
    I hadn’t heard of Kvyat before this season so it was good to get some information on his background.
    One tiny little detail is that his team in Formula Renault was Koiranen, not Korainen.

  2. “He also brushed up on his Italian, one of the four languages spoken by the native of the republic of Bashkortostan”

    this just sounds completely wrong. why would they speak italian in the middle of russia?? i imagine they speak russian and one or more turkic languages.

    1. “The native of the republic of Bashkortostan” refers to Kvyat, not language. As in Kvyat – the native of the republic of Bashkortostan – speaks four languages, including Italian.

  3. Looking at the old pictures Kvyat is more looking like a Man who he was about replace in RBR for 2015

  4. The incredible thing is that had Arden not made huge steps forward on setup over GP3’s summer break, he would have not won the title, Da Costa would have got the seat, and the increasingly remarkable talent of Daniil Kvyat may never have raced an F1 car (since he was nowhere near as impressive as Sainz in the 2013 Young Driver Test). It is arguably a swings and roundabouts scenario since the ferocious talent that is Antonio Felix da Costa will likely never race in F1, but was his lackluster 2013 FR3.5 season purely an “off season” for an Arden FR3.5 crew clearly inferior to that of DAMS?

    But that is the nature of motorsport: last year one Toro Rosso driver got a Red Bull contract and proceeded to beat a four-time champion and overnight became a media darling and one of the best racing drivers in the world, whilst the other, who scored just seven fewer points, finds himself facing expulsion from the sport. That same Ricciardo-Vergne dynamic is the case with Kvyat-Da Costa, as the now DTM/testing wilderness exiled talent could have so easily just found himself signing a contract to replace the quadruple champion had Arden not found themselves dominating the final rounds of the GP3 championship.

    1. Was 2013 an off-season of Arden?
      Or was that second half of 2012 a positive outlier for AFdC?

      AFdC had less than convincing seasons in 2010, 2011 and 2013. He had two shots at GP3, but couldn’t do better than 13th and 3rd. While Kvyat won GP3 in his first season.

      In the end I think Red Bull saw Kvyat progressing while AFdC seemed to stall (except for that magnificent second half of 2012) after an initial good start in car racing in FR2.0.

      1. True. What could have changed everything was Webber leaving Red Bull late 2012. Ricciardo would have replace him and António Félix da Costa would have joined Toro Rosso in 2013. It reminds me late 2008. Had Barrichello left F1 at the time (after 16 years!!!) that could have changed everything to Bruno Senna’s career. I think that is one of the reasons Formula E can become so exciting…

        1. I fully agree, if Webber had quit F1 a year earlier it would have been him joining STR. Nobody else was ready to step up.

      2. @mattds – You make good points, but I think given the fact that Antonio beat Magnussen, Sorensen and Yelloly despite missing the first three rounds in 2012 in FR3.5, there is a reasonable basis to suggest that we were looking at a sub-optimal Arden in 2013; and remember he would have been 2012 GP3 champion had his car not ground to a halt (unusually for a Dallara chassis) at the final round at Monza. Yes, his junior career was more Kevin Magnussen or Carlos Sainz Jr than Stoffel Vandoorne or Nico Hulkenberg but a) his 2012 FR3.3 season is unquestionably the work of an F1 worthy talent and b) he excelled, according to the team themselves, in the tests he has conducted.

        1. @william-brierty That’s all pretty sensible. One factor though that could have played as well, is that after missing 3 out of 9 rounds, the title was basically gone already and he could drive without worry or stress.
          About Monza 2012 (GP3): well yes, you mention technical problems for AFdC, but don’t forget Evans retired with technical problems as well in the very same race.

          1. @mattds – Can you ever drive without worry or stress when you’re part of Marko’s Red Bull Junior Team? And it certainly wasn’t a factor that helped Sainz when he was getting a taster of FR3.5 in 2013, and yes Carlos was driving for Zeta Corse not Arden, but that hasn’t hurt Merhi this year.

          2. Well @william-brierty, I have to correct myself indeed. In racing you can never drive completely devoid of any worry or stress. But knowing that a title isn’t expected does help a lot.
            Fact of the matter is that when it really mattered, Sainz Jr. went on to take an impressive title in his first full FR3.5 season while AFdC disappointed and didn’t. And to make matters worse he lost out to not one, but two drivers of a rivaling F1 team’s junior programme.

            Red Bull are no idiots. They know the circumstances even better than we do. If they had thought they’d struck gold, he would have been in the STR. But apparently 2013 carried more weight than 2012.

          3. @mattds – Da Costa will still have known that the way he fairs in a FR3.5 car, not in a GP3 car, would essentially delineate whether he would make the step up to F1. Driving the car around which your career pivots for the first time is no Sunday afternoon cruise.

            It appears to me fundamentally impossible that there is no tangible reason behind the shelf in Da Costa’s performances in a spec series over the course of the winter. The argument that he cracked psychologically despite only being pitted against a man [Magnussen] he had beaten despite missing the first three rounds and the comparably inexperienced FR2.0 champion [Vandoorne] is absurd; Da Costa was to even the most learned observer champion elect before the season started. Q.E.D: There was a genuine reason for his tail off.

            The only conceivable ones put the focus on Arden and the diminishing pot of money provided by Caterham, and their hypothetical failure to maximize the performance from the aerodynamic updates made to the Dallara T12 or the compound tweaks [softer] made by Michelin. A likely theory is that in response to having slightly softer compounds the GP2 experience provided by Caterham advised them to soften the car for tyre preservation, but this damaged pace disproportionally to the fragility of the tyre.

            A theory that just doesn’t work in motorsport is to throw your hands up in the air and say “they’re the experts”, because do people with the data in front of them never make decisions that were ill-advised in retrospect? Were Red Bull not wrong to parachute nineteen year old Alguersuari into STR fresh from British F3? Were Ferrari not wrong choosing Raikkonen over Hulkenberg last year? The thing is, the highly structured and corporate structure you are imagining makes driver decisions with regards their junior programme is simply not the case. Marko is the linchpin, the judge and executioner, and although he has advisers and figures that report to him on driver progress, the decision rests with him. Twelve months ago the combination of Kvyat’s youth and the remarkably influnetial “you’re as good as your last race” effect was more inticing than betting the careers of Sainz and Kvyat on Da Costa’s 2013 issues being about the team.

            That doesn’t change the fact that, like Frijns and Wickens, F1 has lost a great talent in Da Costa, although if we wept every time a great talent failed to fulfil his/her potential in motorsport then we wouldn’t have time to watch any motorsport!

          4. @william-brierty: I’m not saying he cracked psychologically. I’m just saying he disappointed in 2013. Sure there was a reason for his tail-off, there always is. But you fail to acknowledge some other factors that could have played out.

            For one, drivers can drive better or worse from season to season, even from race to race. It’s possible that Magnussen just stepped up his game. Changed his approach, changed his driving to unlock more in the car, whatever, and so became better in those cars than AFdC. And while I’m not putting it as a fact he cracked under pressure, I don’t see why it couldn’t have been a reason. Again: in 2012 no title was expected and he had far less to lose than in 2013 when it was money time and he was expected to bring home the title.

            Secondly, drivers can be more talented. Why could it not be a genuine possibility that Vandoorne could handle the FR3.5 better hence beat AFdC?

            No, it’s not because Red Bull see more than we do that they are always right, per sé. But they DO see more than we. And if it was all as simple as you’re saying, that it was so unquestionable, then they would have seen that too and put him in the STR. Which didn’t happen.

            Lastly I’m still not convinced about his inherent qualities in relation to others. For you one good year (2012) amidst 4 rather forgettable ones (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014) is the mark of a driver with “ferocious” talent that is “unquestionably” ready for F1. I’m not too sure of the “ferocious” part. I would agree he is/was ready for F1, but that doesn’t mean I don’t rate others higher.

            Kvyat just accomplished more in a shorter time at a younger age and showed a steep learning curve. RB took notice. For me AFdC would deserve a place in F1 but only after at least Frijns and Vandoorne get a place as well.

          5. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
            22nd October 2014, 9:04

            @mattds – I didn’t say you said that, it is just the arbitrary argument assigned to Da Costa’s disappointing 2013 season and is plain absurd. It wasn’t a scrappy season or one littered with errors on the part of Da Costa as was the case Hamilton’s 2011 season of psychological turmoil, he merely struggled for performance the whole season apart from the opening round at Monza; an “outlier” track to all intents and purposes. Put simply there is a very good reason for the simple fact that he didn’t challenge for the title, let alone win it.

            But then comes the impassable minefield of driver dynamics as you say: the rate of driver progression, the new dynamic between team and driver and the intensity, or otherwise, of preseason testing. Magnussen certainly did step up to the plate with DAMS unquestionably, but why did Da Costa, with the same level of FR3.5 experience as Kevin but not burdened with the inconvenience of changing teams between 2012-3 and on previous junior results a very comparable level talent, finish over a hundred points behind? Vandoorne’s case is simple, the kid is a superstar, but how can the superiority of DAMS over Arden explain the full 102 point deficit between Da Costa and the Dane, without there being some other factor capping Antonio speed?

            Please don’t think I am saying Da Costa is a Senna-esque talent or even a Hamilton-esque talent, he is certainly more in a column with Kevin Magnussen (who just isn’t the Hamilton style prodigy the media were making him out to be twelve months ago) and Carlos Sainz Jr than Nico Hulkenberg, Robin Frijns or indeed Stoffel Vandoorne, but I would’ve have liked to have seen him in F1 all the same.

            Here, now, would I turn the clock back and swap Kvyat for Da Costa? No, Kvyat has turned out to be something of a sensation and I am certain a long and successful career awaits him, but it is just sad that a kid I think would have also taken Vettel’s place is going around at the back in the DTM, especially when the picture presented to Marko twelve months ago was less than clear cut. So my conclusion is the same as yours, it would have been nice to see Da Costa in F1, but not over talents like Vandoorne, Frijns and indeed Kvyat.

          6. @william-brierty well you’ve provided a great conclusion to a very entertaining discussion. Thank you for this.

  5. It is actually Koiranen, not Korainen.

  6. Thanks for the great article. Didn’t know much of Kvyat’s racing background. Sounds to me like he did pretty well, although not all dominating like a couple other drivers on the grid, but all in all worthy of an F1 seat when he entered this year.

    What really matters is what he has done this year. He has impressed with speed, and reasonable consistency for a rookie. Some hickups are bount to happen, but showing speed is surely the most important thing to impress Marko with. I hope he has a great year next year at Red Bull. Somehow, Kvyat is a refreshing driver, things he says make sense and he keeps his calm more often then not. A bit like Bottas and Ricciardo, but with the underlying fury of Alonso (SPA 2014).

  7. “Sainz also bested Kvyat in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup series, but neither could beat Robin Frijns who outscored third-placed Kvyat by 90 points.”

    Robin Frijns, such a wasted talent …

    1. I get properly sad when I think of what could have been for Frijns. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that he must be among the most promising young drivers ever. And he’s not going to drive in F1.

    2. I think it’s worth mentioning in that comment that Frijns had a year’s experience in cars on Kvyat and Sainz in car. He had two seasons of Formula BMW before moving up to Eurocup, Kvyat and Sainz only had one season.

  8. what I find most interesting, is many drivers do not dominate in junior series (so many factors like money), but in their first year in F1, they can establish themselves so easily as future champions. sometimes drivers like Kvyat get in to f1 ahead of others that win more junior series – but that is how it is, there is only about 20-22 seats in f1, and if you get a seat you usually only have one chance to prove yourself. Kvyat has proved himself this year as a driver that will compete at the top in f1 for the next decade.

  9. @keithcollantine

    Hiw sole win, at Zandvoort, was the only victory that year for a driver with a Volkswagen engine

    I would like to point out that this was not the case. Harry Tincknell took a victory in the Carlin-VW at Silverstone.

    1. Sorry, I should have mentioned @anthonyfrench

  10. I don’t know that he deserves the promotion, he’s been similar to Vergne in qualifying and a little inferior to him in race performance. The latter aspect of his game will probably improve with more races under his belt.

    Similar to KMag really, another driver who’s (seemingly) gotten a seat next year based on his expected development curve rather than on what he’s actually shown thus far.

  11. I **recommend** everyone watch the first interview video with the auto-captions auto-translated to English. Tremendous effort – while whating for his sister, he was pregnant and had dinner!

  12. Has anyone here heard of a young US talent named Ty Francis?

  13. Correct name is Ernie Ty Francis Jr.

    1. What did it happen on lap 11? spin????
      And for the place at the grid it looks is not so fast in practice.
      Is it camping race?

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