Verstappen taking Kvyat’s seat is about future potential, not past results

2016 F1 season

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On the face of it Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull career was going rather well.

In the first year after his promotion from Toro Rosso he out-scored team mate Daniel Ricciardo by 95 to 92. Just two weeks ago he scored the team’s first podium finish of the season in China.

So it’s understandable there’s a perception he’s been hard done by to lose his seat quickly. Even if his blunder on Sunday was one of the more catastrophic errors of recent races.

Sebastian Vettel, whose race was ended by not one but two assaults from Kvyat, took a very public trip to see former team boss Christian Horner on the Red Bull pit wall after the collision. But Horner didn’t need his ex-driver to tell him just how damaging Kvyat’s error had been for his team.

Verstappen’s previous run in a Red Bull F1 car
Kvyat wrecked the points-scoring chances of both Red Bull cars after knocking Vettel into Daniel Ricciardo’s. Kvyat’s broken wing lodged in Carlos Sainz Jnr’s car from Red Bull sister team Toro Rosso, forcing him to make an early pit stop which ultimately kept him from scoring points.

Kvyat called it the messiest start of his racing career – it has now proved the costliest few hundred metres of driving in terms of his future prospects. But even considering how ruinous it was for Red Bull, did Kvyat really deserve to lose his seat over this single race?

When you looked beyond the points totals at the end of last season it was immediately obvious Ricciardo had a better season than his junior team mate. The high-point of Kvyat’s season was second place in Hungary, which his own race engineer admitted afterwards was “more than we deserved”.

The opening rounds of 2016 bore this out: Kvyat was four-nil down against Ricciardo on Saturdays and qualified ten places behind his team mate in the first two rounds. And while he took a podium in China just 18 days ago Ricciardo started on the front row and only dropped back due to a puncture. Once both were in clear air on the same tyres at the end of the race Ricciardo was much quicker.

Meanwhile Max Verstappen, who will take Kvyat’s place at Red Bull, was the stand-out rookie of last season. He would have started and finished every race this year in the top ten had his power unit not packed up in Russia.

Red Bull kept the faith in Vettel when he slipped up in 2007
Although Verstappen’s furious radio messages in Melbourne drew some criticism from the media, the team cares more about how quick he is. And keeping him out of the arms of rival teams. Elevating him to Red Bull is a useful buffer against any rival outfits which might have come knocking for 2017 – such as Ferrari.

Kvyat’s performances to date have been more solid than stunning. This might be fine if he had been hired by a mid-grid team in need of a capable driver who perhaps brings some backing. But everything Red Bull have done with their junior driver programme to date shows they won’t settle for merely ‘solid’.

His exit from Red Bull may come as a surprise given his results, but less so in the light of his core performance and, no doubt, the team’s assessment of his potential.

As for the Sochi episode, was the crash really any worse than when young Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel crashed into Mark Webber, running second for Red Bull, during the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix? No.

Did Red Bull drop Vettel for that mistake? No. But to Red Bull, Kvyat isn’t the next Vettel. Verstappen is.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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67 comments on “Verstappen taking Kvyat’s seat is about future potential, not past results”

  1. In a way, this reminds me a little bit of when Sergio Perez was dropped by McLaren for Kevin Magnussen. I seem to remember Martin Whitmarsh (or was it Ron Dennis?) saying that the problem Perez had was that “Kevin Magnussen exists”. And it proved that Perez’s jump to a top team came too soon, arguably the same could have been said of Magnussen, perhaps the same could have been said of Kvyat (although Red Bull’s only other option at the time was Jean-Eric Vergne, which given he was given the axe from Toro Rosso a few weeks prior would have looked a bit odd) and I do fear the same will happen to Verstappen.

    However it was clear from pretty much day one that all Helmut Marko had interest in was getting Verstappen in a Red Bull as soon as possible, regardless of whether he is ready or not. Kvyat unfortunately was never going to be more than a stop-gap and that was obvious after he was told to perform better after just two starts. I do hope this isn’t yet time that a really solid driver has his F1 career effectively finished aged so young.

    1. Verstappen has two things going for him. One is Marko’s seemingly unending love for his ability. The other is his ability and adaptability. He’s great with his tyres, his racecraft, the sort of thing that might prove the downfall of a young driver.

      1. Why does everyone hate Marko? I would like to think that I had the same acumen to make the same decision as he did. It was unpopular, but it was the right one, even if it was harsh. RB giveth and they taketh away. Ricciardo, Kvyat, Sainz, Verne and so on wouldn’t even be in F1 without RB.

        @hahostolze You say Marko has unending love for Verstappens ability. I bet one year of being beaten by Ricciardo will end that “unending” love. Marko has an unending love for winners, while they are winners. Verstappen may get there, but I bet he isn’t there yet in Marko’s eyes.

    2. I think Marko wanting to secure Verstappen, Verstappen being upset about some of the STR team decisions recently and internal termoil at STR (see getting Booth to smooth out things and Pujolar now also leaving/being ditched by STR) contributed as well as the handy excuse of Kvyat having messed up at Red Bull.

      In all likeliness, it just brought things ahead faster than it would have otherwise.

    3. I don’t believe the “big team to soon” theory. I believe if you got the talent, got the mindset, got the support you will succeed – and really the sooner the better. Perfect example, Hamilton but there are others as well… and in other sports we see the same trend. Of coarse drivers will mature etc. but enough raw talent should see them through especially with the correct support/backing. At (For) the moment I believe Verstappen has that backing… best take advantage of it, before someone else jumps the line…

  2. And all this doesn’t mean the ending of Kvyat his career. It most likely means the end of his Red Bull sponsored days.

    1. He has no money and no sponsors. It’s the ending of Kvyat’s career.

      1. Well thats just sad.

      2. Ironic considering the number of billionaires in Russia.

    2. @xtwl On the contrary, I think this is more likely to mean the end of his F1 career rather than his Red Bull sponsored days. I think Kvyat’s presence on the grid next year depends on how well Gasly does in GP2 this season. If the frenchman gets promoted to Torro Rosso, it’s clear that it’s going to be Kvyat getting the boot, not Sainz.
      From there on, I think it’s more likely for Kvyat to follow Buemi’s or Da Costa’s route into WEC or DTM while keeping his Red Bull driver status and sponsorship.

    3. @tony031r, @krioru I strongly believe he will be picked up by Williams to replace Massa. Kvyat is fast enough to be in F1 and deserves a seat.

      1. Frank Williams once said that Russian driver will never drive for Williams.

        1. I’d like to see that quote. Sounds too ridiculous/discriminatory that even if he actually felt that way, I’m having trouble believing a man in his position would say it out loud.

      2. Massa brings significant backing from Petrobras (although given current events, it is possible that may not continue). Jenson Button, who some suggest could move to Williams, is loved by sponsors and would also bring significant dollars.

        Williams need dollars. Kvyat, who has been in the Red Bull programme his entire career, would bring none. Given current financial sanctions against his home country, that might be hard to change.

        Put this in the unlikely column.

      3. I think Wehrlein, Lynn even Nasr are ahead of him on their list.
        So far, Massa 32 v Bottas 19, if Massa wants to continue, it will be a tough task for Kvyat.

        1. But I do believe that Kvyat WILL have his success in F1.

      4. @xtwl F1 is “never say never” territory so I won’t rush into contradicting you on that. However, Massa is still playing a strong game against Bottas, he brings solid sponsorship and he’s generally well looked after at Williams. Unless he loses it all of a sudden, I think it will be Massa’s decision whether he quits or not and when. I doubt anyone in the Williams camp will rush to sack him without a solid performance-related argument.

        And even if Massa goes and a seat frees up at Williams all of a sudden, it’s going to be mayhem. Off the top of my head there are at least 9 drivers, except Kvyat, that will all try to have a go at that spot. The competition will be fierce.

        All is not lost for Kvyat, however. There’s a certain SMP Racing Team that seem to be thinking big as of late in endurance racing and who will probably be very happy to get their hands on a driver like Daniil.

      5. @xtwl

        If not Williams, then Renault or Haas would probably pick him up. Both of them have 2 absolutely rubbish drivers that will be more likely than not replaced for 2017.

    4. If he performs well against Sainz, I expect to see him around in 2017. Don’t expect to see him in F1 anymore after that though.

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        5th May 2016, 13:44

        I would not be surprised if Sainz beats Kvyat over the rest of this season. @paeschli
        And it’s not that Kvyat is slow or something like that. It’s more that Sainz is also very strong, and his only mistake so far is that he’s trying a bit too hard against Verstappen, creating his own mistakes. Kvyat/Sainz will be as interesting as to see how Verstappen fares in the RBR against Grinciardo.

    5. As far as I know, no Red Bull/Toro Rosso driver who got dropped managed to stay on the grid. They have no sponsor (or very few) as their career was entirely managed by Red Bull. Just see how Buemi, Vergne, Alguersuari ended. And they performed equally (if not better in my opinion) than Kyvat

      He could still be on the grid next year, but it’s going to be a hell of fight to stay to find a drive for next year…

      1. jmlabareda
        5th May 2016, 14:12

        that is directionally correct although many moons ago Vitantonio Liuzzi was picked up by Force India (but had a year and a half as test driver), and Christian Klien managed to re-appear a couple of times for HRT.

        Other than that… ding.

      2. Obviously it’s not a prediction I would set money on but to me it seems likely that he will remain on the grid for 2017 considering he does have talent enough to be in F1 and Red Bull thought he was good enough to be put into the top team over Vergne (who arguably wasn’t the hardest competittion).

        @arhn The only driver to ever leave Red Bull was Vettel. The other two left for better places. Kvyat is still a much better driver than half the grid. This entire situation does not do credit to him, I’m pretty sure he will be picked up somewhere.

        @tdog Massa is doing good against Bottas and maybe Williams should replace Bottas with Kvyat. Either way I think there are better results to be achieved with either combination that includes Kvyat.

        @todfod Yeah, I don’t rate Kvyat as one of the best on the grid but surely in the better half. He deserves a spot in F1, for now.

        @tony031r You’re right but I believe they could sweep up Kvyat pretty cheap compared to some others. Then there is still the factor of being out of contract.

        1. I also don’t see why this DK move has to spell the end of his RBR career, let alone his F1 career. Who knows, but for now he still has the rest of the season to affect his own future by putting in solid runs.

  3. Christian Riemer
    5th May 2016, 12:47

    Vettel did not crash into Webber. Webber was driving to aggressively against his teammate. And he was the main cause for the crash!

    1. Not really…

      1. Vettel did indeed crash into Webber, under the safety car no less (which was worse than Kvyat). That GP was likely to be Webber’s first victory as he had fresh tyres, where as Hamilton didn’t. He most likely would have jumped Hamilton on the restart had he not been hit… had that happened, it also would have been RedBull’s first ever victory, and history may have been entirely different.

  4. “Kvyat called it the messiest start of his racing career – it has now proved the costliest few hundred metres of driving in terms of his future prospects. But even considering how ruinous it was for Red Bull, did Kvyat really deserve to lose his seat over this single race? ”

    No. But last race wasn’t what cost Kvyat to lose his seat. Verstappen is what cost Kvyat his seat. Between Ricciardo, whose a star in F1 now and very marketable, and Kvyat it was always going to be Kvyat who was going to be replaced. And Verstappen moving to Red Bull was bound to happen. Unless Red Bull wanted to lose Verstappen to Mercedes or Ferrari.

    “As for the Sochi episode, was the crash really any worse than when young Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel crashed into Mark Webber, running second for Red Bull, during the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix? No.”

    The Japanese GP was a wet race and Vettel AND Webber had poor visibility due to spray. Combined with Hamilton’s eratic driving behaviour Webber did not see Hamilton brake and avoided Hamilton. Vettel did not see Webber avoid Hamilton and ran into the back of Webber when Webber braked in order not to overtake Hamilton.
    Kvyat had clear visibility, could see the cars in front of him slowing down long before Vettel ever could in Fuji 2007 and didn’t hit the car in front once but TWICE.
    So yes is the only correct answer here.

    1. Vettel also only ruined two drivers’ races, not 4 like Kvyat did.

    2. Yep, and it’s a pretty pathetic attempt to deflect from kvyat’s awful rookie driving. Shame on you f1fanatic. You’re better than this.

    3. >and didn’t hit the car in front once but TWICE.

      It was actually three times!

    4. Yup, there was a reason for the initial 10-grid penalty being reduced to a reprimand in the end. Also let’s not forget it was Vettel’s 6th grand prix in F1.

      1. One more, later FIA even amended the rules to prevent what Hamilton did behind the SC.

    5. Bigger picture here.
      Verstappen now out of Ferrari’s hands.
      Ferrari will now agree to give engine to Redbull in 2017 in exchange for release of Ricciardo to Ferrari.

      1. Possible but was MV ever ‘in’ Ferrari’s hands? His contract is with RBR.

        1. To Redbull a competitive engine is worth more than any driver contract .
          Redbull terminology is Driver = Hamburger , Engine = Gold

  5. The comparison between Japan 2007 and this is absolutely ridicolous.
    It has been established in several onboards that Webber had to brake particularly hard due to Lewis Hamiltons interesting tyre-warming moves and that in abysmal visibility.
    Was Vettel’s crash stupid and avoidable? Yes. But it was a long shot away from what Kvyat did in Sochi.

    He not only crashed once, but twice into another driver, in pretty much perfet outside conditions, with especially the second contact being absolutely out of line for a driver in a top team. I would agree that booting him out after one abysmal result is too harsh, but as I said, that comparison is absolutely forced and wrong.

    1. Andrew (@bombinaround)
      5th May 2016, 14:09

      The comparisons aren’t that odd, let’s not forget that in perfect conditions Vettel cut across Webber in Turkey, ending his race and damaging Webber’s. Or that he ran into the back of Button coming up to the bus stop chicane in Belgium ’10.
      The second contact wasn’t out of line. Given the speed that they were up to, the distance behind that he was and the speed with which an F1 car slows just by lifting off, it would have been an absolute miracle for any driver on the grid to have not hit the back of the Ferrari.

      1. He didn’t run into the back of button. It was the side rather which was a result of Vettel losing control of the car and was on its way to spinning before hitting buttom

      2. Regardless of disagreeing wildly with everything you said, I have no clue what these two incidents have to do with the 2007 Japan race…

      3. @bombinaround
        The comparisons with Vettel in 2010 are kind of pointless, by that point in Vettel’s career he had already proven way more than Kvyat has today.

  6. ‘As for the Sochi episode, was the crash really any worse than when young Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel crashed into Mark Webber, running second for Red Bull, during the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix?’

    Visibility issues and a race leader that has been damned for slowing down himself, thus contributing to the crash.
    So I would say yes, Kvyat’s was worse.

  7. ColdFly F1 (@)
    5th May 2016, 13:46

    referring to a STR racing ruining the RBR’s race.

    Did Red Bull drop Vettel for that mistake? No. But to Red Bull, Kvyat isn’t the next Vettel. Verstappen is.

    Sums it all up very nicely.

  8. There are plenty of promising talent in the junior formulas to pick. I don’t see Red Bull rivals hiring Kvyat. Nor do I see Sainz Junior making it to the main team.

  9. “As for the Sochi episode, was the crash really any worse than when young Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel crashed into Mark Webber, running second for Red Bull, during the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix? No.”

    Oh yes, it was. Back in 2007, there was only one driver to blame for the pile-up: Hamilton. Who miraculously escaped punishment for his erratic and rules-breaking behaviour behind the safety car, that ended the races of his closest competitors.

  10. No Red Bull sponsored driver has moved to another team, except Vettel (who has won everything with them) and Liuzzi, who lucked into a seat at Force India when Fisichella replaced Badoer at Ferrari.

    So this is definitely the end of Kvyat’s stint in F1, unless Red Bull fails to promote one of their many young drivers to Toro Rosso for next year whii seems unlikely.

    I feel it’s very unfair. Dany was rushed into Red Bull because of Vettel move to Ferrari, he, unlike all the others, had only 1 year at the sister team, and even so he was solid, as you say, in Red Bull.

    1. @fer-no65 “and Liuzzi, who lucked into a seat at Force India when Fisichella replaced Badoer at Ferrari.”

      Liuzzi was lucky to get the race seat for the final races of 2009 but he had a contract that would have seen him in the race seat for 2010 anyway.

  11. They settled for Webber for quite some time.

    Red Bull not settling for ‘solid’ is not quite the full picture methinks.

    1. I think Webber’s early entry into the Red Bull F1 project helped hin stay on, as well as his nearly championship winning form in 2010. After that he was the no. 2 driver effectively because Vettel had him covered. He drove well enough for RBR to win the Constructors’ so it all worked out well.

      Only Webber was in that situation. DC left before they were fast enough so he never had to move out of the way for the previous next Vettel, otherwise known as Vettel.

    2. Besides the fact that RB were winning both titles anyway and Webber had a close relationship with the big boss, I think that there wasn’t a standout STR driver to promote was a factor too. Buemi and Alguersuari were neck and neck, so were Riccairdo and Vergne until Webber announced his retirement. Then like M. Verstappen, back in 2008 there were rumors that McLaren and Ferrari were interested in Vettel. Something we haven’t heard about any STR drivers of Vettel-Webber era.

  12. Vettel was nicknamed the crash kid in his first two seasons with Red Bull and unlike Kvyat, Vettel scored less points than Ricciardo in their one season together.

    1. Vettel also won the title in his second season with Red Bull. Kyvat outscored Ricciardo because he suffered the brunt of Red Bull reliablity in 2015, much like Vettel in 2014.

  13. Kvyat just wasn’t good enough, and there was no real reason to continue with his mediocre performances when they have Verstappen waiting in the wings.

  14. Absolutely stunned they have dropped Kyvat immediately. I thought they would at least give him this season to prove himself, before bringing in Max.

    I suppose that Keith sums Kyvat’s time at RBR up well, especially with the final couple of paragraphs. I hadn’t seen anything from Kyvat to suggest that he is the real deal, like with Vettel, Ricciardo or Verstappen. Even in that infamous Fuji race, Vettel was dragging a Toro Rosso into a legit 3rd place.

  15. Yup, this was on the cards regardless of what happened in Sochi I reckon.

    Kyvat’s move to Red Bull always seemed a little premature, so what disturbs me about this is that now, the same is going to happen with Max, who is even younger. Arguably more hot-headed too. It’ll be interesting to see what Max’s approach is from here.

    Another thought I had is that perhaps this suggests Red Bull truly believe they could bag a couple of wins this season if they continue progressing. And what a story that would be for Marko if Max managed to grab one? A much needed PR re-invigoration for their young driver program too. Probably best to get this done sooner whilst they’re still heading the midfield pack and out of the spotlight.

    Sunday’s antics were reminiscent of an online video-game. I do hope Kyvat does alright from here though. Let’s not forget how young these guys are… he’s shown potential I reckon. At the very least this is an opportunity to re-invent himself Grosjean or Perez style (admittedly, the former had a nicer boss).

    Roll on Barcelona…

  16. Essentially, this is the end of Kvyat having any future at Red Bull/Toro Rosso.
    They do not see him having any high potential, short or long-term.
    Will others care to gamble on him for 2017?

  17. OK, let’s see what happened to some other drivers, who were dropped by top teams:

    Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari, 2005) – won two races with Brawn GP in 2009 and was in contention for the title until the penultimate race of that season
    Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren, 2009) – spent three seasons at Lotus/Caterham and replaced Raikkonen at the other Lotus team for two races in 2013 but scored no points after leaving McLaren
    Sergio Perez (McLaren, 2013) – joined Force India and has been on the podium twice since then
    Felipe Massa (Ferrari, 2013) – went to Williams, got a pole position in the 2014 Austrian GP and has stood on the podium five times since 2014
    Kevin Magnussen (McLaren, 2014/15) – has just joined Renault and scored first points last Sunday

    There certainly is life after top team but every case is unique and it is usually difficult for fallen drivers to reach the previous heights. I truly hope that Kvyat can prove Marko, Horner and all his doubters wrong but right now the odds are against him and the path back to the top seems to be very steep.

  18. This whole story reminds me of when Enzo Ferrari fired Rene Arnoux just because he wanted to.

  19. To be fair to Kvyat, looking at the picture at the top of the article, if I swung it into turn 3 and saw a massive picture of my own facing staring back at me, I’d probably crash into the car in front too.

    1. “own face” that should say. Stupid phone.

  20. It’s an incredibly harsh decision, but it’s difficult to see Kvyat potentially winning a world championship or even races, so getting replaced by Verstappen was an inevitability in that regard. One other thing that should be considered – does anyone else think that Verstappen was moved up to Red Bull to stop him being poached by one of the other top teams for 2017?

    1. Many do seem to think that but for me MV is already under the RBR wing so I’m not convinced a poaching would have been possible, in that I would have thought RBR would have ample time to secure MV’s future with them first.

  21. It wasnt all about Kvyat being slower than Ricciardo or the Kvyat incident at Russian GP. Interesting analysis from Olaf Mol (Dutch F1 reporter) mentioning that there was allot of things going on in the Toro Rosso garage as well during the first few races. And a big incident between Tost and camp Verstappen and his engineer xevi whom has now quit Toro Rosso.

    1. Yeah, I guess Marko was not going to let Tost slap Verstappen in the face and see their young gun future WDC material walk out to Mercedes or Ferrari, unlike how animosity got Speed out of F1 (and Liuzzi also confirmed it had been pretty bad)

  22. You last line said, “Did Red Bull drop Vettel for that mistake? No. But to Red Bull, Kvyat isn’t the next Vettel. Verstappen is.” What you should have said is “Verstappen may be…” He’s not proven yet. Ricciardo may own him for the rest of the season. He has beaten Sainz in my opinion, but not by miles. Maybe both of them are crap. Who knows.
    You say future champion. I say possible future champion. Possible future Kvyat too.

    Ricciardo is good an in my opinion and he can truly be call a future Vettel. Verstappen is a possible at best right now. If he beats Ricciardo, then we have something. If he doesn’t, well…. Lots of ifs in there. However, if anyone if going to be given the chance, I am glad it is Verstappen.

    P.S. Who will win. Ricciardo’s understated cool or the Verstappen family determination. You need drive and determination to win. Hardly any drivers win without it and Ricciardo seems too cool in this environment. I see massive problems for Ricciardo dealing with the angst generated by the Verstappens. They will create waves that neither Kvyat or Vettel ever delivered and most of it will be off the track. Will he handle it or fold. I can’t wait to see what happens.

    Verstappen to RB is the most awesome thing to happen this year. I loved the Verstappen Vs Sainz rivalry. The Verstappen Vs Ricciardo rivalry will be way more awesome. Verstappen needs to deliver from day one otherwise it is game over. Ricciardo has already owned Verne, Vettel and Kvyat. Give him an inch and he will mentally own you. He might not do it in the media like others, but on track the above 3 drivers certainly knew they were owned. Game on and I am excited.

  23. Kvyat had a bad start early this season due to technical problems but later he improved. The proof is podium in China.
    Dani was undeservedly treated as #2 by RBR. He is surely a fast driver but there are so many other issues involved such strategy, team support, tyre management and etc. in my opinion, he well deserves a place on a grid but weather it will be STR next season, I’m not sure. Most probably he will be among available drivers in 2017 and other teams will keep an eye on him.

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