Red Bull’s talent shortage means all is not lost for Kvyat

2016 F1 season

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Red Bull caused a stir four days after the Russian Grand Prix by sacking Daniil Kvyat following his calamitous performance in his home race.

Except Kvyat hasn’t been sacked – he’s been demoted, to Toro Rosso. This is virtually unprecedented for Red Bull. The team has previously operated a ‘dead man’s boots’ approach: when one driver is shown the door the rest move up a rung.

It’s not hard to see why the team might have baulked at ending Kvyat’s F1 career in the aftermath of the Sochi crash and just 18 days after he stood on the podium for them in China. But it’s also true that in years past Red Bull would have had a queue of likely F1 talents ready to fill an empty Toro Rosso seat.

Gasly tested for Red Bull last year
That isn’t the case today. The most senior driver in Red Bull’s junior team is Pierre Gasly, who at present does not have enough FIA superlience points to qualify to compete in F1: he is one point shy of the required 40.

This would probably not keep him from being able to race in F1: Gasly did enough testing mileage Red Bull’s RB11 last year that the team would likely be able to qualify in the same way Manor’s two drivers did. But the jury’s out on whether he is a talent of the calibre Red Bull like to put in F1.

As a rookie in Formula Renault 3.5 Gasly finished runner-up to the more experienced Carlos Sainz Jnr, then switched to GP2 where he finished eighth last year. But aside from his consistency those two campaigns had one unfortunate fact in common: he failed to win a single race. This does not scream ‘future world champion’, though he has a chance to put that right as the most experienced driver in Prema’s new GP2 squad this year.

Gasly is the only driver to have remained on Red Bull’s programme since they cleared house at the end of last year. Dean Stoneman, win-less in Formula Renault 3.5 last season, has moved on to Indy Lights. European Formula Three racer Callum Ilott also lost his Red Bull backing.

In their place Red Bull have a clutch of talents (below) who are unlikely to be F1-ready or eligible in the immediate future. Luis Leeds and Niko Kari, both 16, won’t be old enough to start an F1 season until 2018. Meanwhile 17-year-old Sergio Sette Camara, who had his first run in a Red Bull F1 car last month, was a lowly 14th in European F3 last year and is only ninth in the much-smaller field this year.

Red Bull dropped Lynn after GP3 title win
Surely the team must now regret losing Alex Lynn (58 superlicence points), who won the 2014 GP3 title while backed by them and went on to beat Gasly in GP2 last year. Or even shunting the promising Antonio Felix da Costa off into the DTM following his sub-par 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 campaign.

Other top talents have passed them by: Stoffel Vandoorne (105 points), who beat Kvyat to the 2012 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup crown and became GP2’s most dominant champion last year, is a McLaren man. GP3 and F3 champions Esteban Ocon (75 points) will drive a Renault during practice in Spain.

Without a driver of that calibre on their books Red Bull would have to look beyond their current roster of talent to fill an immediate vacancy at Toro Rosso. Not forgetting that was how Max Verstappen joined them in the first place, if Gasly doesn’t produce the goods this year then Kvyat’s place looks safe for now.

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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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52 comments on “Red Bull’s talent shortage means all is not lost for Kvyat”

  1. This is probably silly speculation, but I wonder if Toro Rosso is being wound down for future sale, and with it the young driver programme. It’s the first thing I’d drop if my commitment was less than 100%.

    1. Doesn’t sound silly to me.

      I remember there was talk Marchionne wanted Toro Rosso to run Alfa Romeo-branded engines this year and he wants Alfa back in F1 as a team. Pure speculation from me as well but Toro Rosso must be the preferred option if he wanted to buy a team.

      The way I see it now is Red Bull have a great line-up, one of the best on the grid. This could be the line-up for years as long as they stay committed to Red Bull and they deliver. I don’t see Sainz or Kvyat driving for Red Bull now.

      Is there going to be much point to carrying on with the driver programme?

    2. Hm potentially yes. First strip it of your star driver… But those have contract with Red Bull right, not STR?

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        6th May 2016, 13:29

        @jureo – Yeah exactly. If they are selling, it makes sense to try your drivers out and pick the best 2 because if the do sell Toro Rosso, they’ll need to get rid of 2 of them anyway!

    3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      6th May 2016, 13:25

      @splittimes Intriguing – intriguingly plausible. As @deej92 points out, Marchionne is looking to establish an Alfa Romeo F1 team to revitalize the Alfa brand’s sporting credentials. Toro Rosso is a self-sufficient, Italian-based factory with an incumbent association with Ferrari and none of Sauber’s debt. It is a perfect fit for an Alfa Romeo F1 programme, so much so I would be surprised if Marchionne hasn’t made an approach.

      1. On the flip side, Mateschitz isn’t likely to sell STR cheap — the asking price may end up far exceeding the price of Sauber + Sauber’s debt combined.

        1. Ah yes.. From perfect sense to, not so sensible price.

          1. You’re forgetting Redbull needs a engine for 2017.

  2. They could pick up Stoneman, Lynn and da Costa without too much trouble (all three of them are better than Gasly IMHO). Of course that would imply that Marko admits he made an error by letting them go, and I’m not sure he’s the type of guy who does that.

    1. That is specially evident if they by any chance pick da Costa, as he was overlooked to give Kvyat the STR seat.

      Honestly I don’t know about the other, but in da Costa is still sponsored by redbull, so the links between them are still present

      1. @johnmilk Red Bull has a whole list of drivers that they sponsor going from both Honda MotoGP drivers to even Webber and Hartley in the WEC.

        1. @xtwl I know, I was referring to those 3 in specific

          1. @johnmilk Imagine them going like ‘We’ll do what Merc did and put Ekstrom in the STR’.

    2. @paeschli I’m not sure about any of those three drivers.

      AFdC had that wonderful second half of 2012 in FR3.5, but had the advantage of being carefree as he had no title aspirations, and that pretty much remains his biggest feat in single seater racing.
      Stoneman had me until disappointing in 2015.
      And Lynn? Title in GP3 is not worth much more, if anything, than the rookie runner-up result Gasly obtained in 2014, and both tied on points in GP2 last year despite the article layin putting emphasis on Lynn beating Gasly.

      So I can’t agree with the article claiming they would be sorry to have lost Lynn – Gasly is doing just as good.

      1. Luís Almeida
        6th May 2016, 17:40

        Felix da Costa since his failed promotion to F1 has already win races in DTM and F-E. Befere that he had won in F. Renault 2.0, F-3, GP3 and F.Renault 3.5, and also in Macau Grand Prix. He has won races in every category he has raced in. I dont think that there are many drivers who can say the same.

        1. Unfortunately “Winning races in series” is not the main criterion for greatness. It’s been 7 years since he was crowned champion in a series and that is a long time.

          I mean, it’s great for him that he son a race in e.g. GP3 but how much does that mean if he finished thirteenth and behind all sorts of mediocre drivers, Rio Haryanto included, in his first season and needed a second to be decent?

          As I said, that second half of 2012 was dynamite, brilliant stuff, but other than that he disappointed in F3, in GP3, in FR3.5 (2013, against two rookies), DTM and even last year in F-E that wasn’t exactly stuff of legends.

          Lots of people crying out how he should be in F1 but I think he’s vastly overrated. I just don’t see it and there are a good number of divers with much better records out there.

  3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    6th May 2016, 13:17

    In fairness to Pierre Gasly, Sainz also looked like no future champion before his dominant 2014 FR3.5 title campaign (Carlos gained much of his early notoriety from a reported stellar test in the RB9 during the 2013 Silverstone Young Driver’s Test), and with a GP2 title under his belt, he would have as good a CV as Carlos. Given that he outperformed Lynn in the later half of 2015, and given that Sirotkin became prone to quiet weekends, I think the GP2 title is thoroughly realistic for Pierre, despite it being Prema’s first season.

    In this regard, if there is a rift between Marko’s camp and Kvyat, then a GP2 champion would be a thoroughly tempting substitute.

    1. @william-brierty I agree, if Gasly wins the GP2 title, then yes, it’s over for Kvyat after 2017. But it’s a huge “if”. I’ll believe it when I see it

      1. meant “over for Kvyat after 2016”

      2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        6th May 2016, 17:43

        @montreal95 – I think whilst Gasly might not be starting the season as the favourite, DAMS and Alex Lynn look to be the most dangerous package on paper, I think he has an excellent chance to take the title. Whilst drivers have tended to struggle on debut in GP2, there is precedent for teams to make an immediate impact, as RUSSIAN TIME did in 2013, winning the teams championship in their debut year, and few have a pedigree of the quality of Prema Powerteam.

        There are probably three other danger-men for the GP2 title this year: Mitch Evans, in his fourth season and driving for the sporadically impressive Campos squad will be a factor, as will Sirotkin, who proved he had the pace last year but was immensely inconsistent with it, and lastly Marciello, having all but shattered a once promising career with an awful 2015 campaign, is in the last-chance-saloon this year. Rowland should also be in that shortlist, but was oddly overlooked by ART and is resigned to MP Motorsport.

        Overall, given that he was the only man able to challenge Vandoorne on pure pace in the later stages of last year, I would not be at all surprised to see Gasly crowned GP2 champion and ascend to Toro Rosso.

        1. @william-brierty Yeah you’re correct, it’s possible. All I said is that, when I look up the GP2 field of 2016, Gasly isn’t even in my top 3 candidates for the title. But anything is possible. Especially now that he knows what the prize is if he does win it. Question is: with the added pressure will it lift him to new heights or will it cause him to crack? Only time will tell

  4. Oh, the superlicense age-limit again… I wonder if the FIA will do something about Verstappen getting the Red Bull seat, will they restrict how old you can get into a top team? :)

    1. and how would you define a top team

      1. So they give Max three awards at the end of 2015 and this year they supposed to restrict him?

  5. @keithcollantine Wehrlein and Haryanto could drive this year because they had a super licence before and thus didn’t need 40 points, just needed the FIA to give their approval.

    If Gasly has never had a super licence before, then there is no legal (as in: validated by the regulations) way for him or any other driver to obtain one other than amassing the 40 points or winning Formula E.

  6. Sergey Martyn
    6th May 2016, 14:17

    I strongly believe that decisions like that will lead to further RB talent shortage.

    1. Jimmy Price
      6th May 2016, 17:37

      yes, all the backers and parents of young racers on Jr. Formulas and carts will surely be looking the opposite direction now that REd Bull has placed an 18yr old in the mothership./sarcasm

      This will only make the driver program more appealing to top talent.

      Kvyat had 1.3 seasons in the top car – most young drivers would kill for that opportunity.

  7. It’s hard to think who Red Bull might poach, a la Verstappen, if Gasly doesn’t have a stellar year in GP2, for a 2017 Toro Rosso seat.

    Oliver Rowland has plenty of talent, but he’s in the Renault programme, along with Ocon, Sirotkin and (ha!) Latifi.

    The other super talent who springs to mind is Le Clerc, but he’s in the FDA together with Fuoco, Giovinazzi and others.

  8. So if Kvyat is lucky he could still be at Torro Rosso in 2017.

    1. Vettel certainly got his revenge on Kvyat.

      1. Sergey Martyn
        6th May 2016, 19:30

        If some drivers, no matter how great they are, can control the other teams decisions it’s not a sport nor sportsmanship. What a poor state of F1 nowadays. We don’t see no more clashes of true heroes – just the whinning of 17-year old boys – I’m faster than Carlos, please tell him to move over! And advices to manage the tyres.
        Please recall the last race when the victory was decided by the driver going flat out.
        True sportsman: Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.

        1. all Kvyat needs to do is thrash Carlos a couple of times to show he way better than Max,
          i will LOL if Riccardo ask over team radio to move Max out of the way.

          1. Yea dat would be funny… Would love some of that team radio.

        2. Vettel should be expelled from Ferrari to Haas till the end of the season for hitting and ruining Kimi’s race in China. Absolutely identical situation.

          1. @regs nope, not even close. First of all, Vettel has been RJ p the better driver by far. Second, he couldn’t disappear, you can’t blame him for it. Third, if you think Kvyat was demoted just because of what happened in one race you’re pretty naive. Fourth, Haas is not the Ferrari junior team.

            … I could probably go on but by now you should realise that was not a great comment.

  9. This could be the time to go outside the Red Bull driver program and get Alexander Rossi. Since John Booth gave Rossi a chance to drive the Manor car last year, then it won’t hurt STR to check him out.

    Let Rossi stick it out with Manor this year and evaluate the option into giving Alex the STR ride in 2017.

    1. @placid With due respect, nothing tells me Rossi is a better talent than Kvyat. He would make sense for Haas maybe because he’s American but not for STR

      1. If Gutiérrez doesn’t start to get his ducks in a row, I think Haas should start looking at Rossi. The American driver for the American team, that may be hard to turn down. He’s got skills, and would have been driving for Manor if Rio didn’t have his paymasters

        1. @sdbarry You’d answered your own question in a way with your last sentence. Gutierrez brings money too. That’s why he managed to come back in the first place, despite not being worthy of a place in F1 at all. So, there’s not a big chance of that, as far as I can see

  10. If STR would offer Ocon or Sirotkin a seat, what would be against that?

  11. I’m glad Kvyat still has a home in F1: I’ve kinda missed old Pastor bouncing around, getting attacked by walls.

  12. This is how it went down according to the dutch television reporter Olav Mol (has been close to Jos since the early 90’s:

    Following tension that started in Singapore TR made clear rules for 2016. Rules which Sainz ignored by calling for and then taking an early pitstop despite being the car behind. Verstappen was furious.

    The team reinstated the rules again before Bahrain, but tension between the two and also between their pitcrews still increased to the point were Marko, Tost, the drivers ánd their dads and head engineers had a round table talk prior to China. Subsequently, Booth was hired as a consultant in the position of ‘Racing Director’ to stabalize the team prior to Russia.

    During qualifying Puljolar (VES engineer) and Tost fell out with eachother over either the compound choice for VES or the number of runs during Q3, leading to Tost angerly speaking to Jos in the paddock. Jos and Tost didnt fight though, Tost just expressed his anger about Puljolar.

    Just prior to the race on sunday morning Olav saw Jos, Max’ agent, Max and Marko taking over coffee. Olav beliefs it was decided then because such a toxic environment wasnt in Max best interest. Add to that the opportunity for RedBull to renegotiate ánd extend Max’ deal with Mercedes and Ferrari lurking, as well neutralizing the situation at STE and everybody wins. Except KVY.

    1. Also Puljolar lost, as he lost his Job for real

    2. Interesting thanks

    3. Very interesting. So perhaps this was always going to happen anyway.

      1. Tnx Patrick, thats the article I read indeed. I should have mentioned it.

  13. What I find interesting about the whole thing is that the Toro Rosso appears to be a damn good car this year – and I happen to think it will fly at places like Spain and Monaco. Kvyat could very well be put into the best possible situation for his career there. Something about him seems to indicate there is more to come……

  14. As it turned out everything was decided before the race. Sunday morning.

    1. Looks like he knew it even before China. Verstappen sponsors simply outpaid his seat. Acronis was ready to support Kvyat, but that wasn’t enough for Red Bull. So they send him back to Toro Rosso where he became a part of Acronis/Toro Rosso deal.

      1. To the Max !
        9th May 2016, 10:22

        Verstappen’s sponsors outpaid Kvyat’s ?

        Verstappen has personal sponsors, but Verstappen never bought himself into Toro Rosso or Red Bull. Sainz however had CEPSA (personal sponsor of Carlos for years) who wanted to pull out of Toro Rosso if hadn’t gotten the seat, they stayed on for another year but pulled the plug an year later. Kvyat now has sponsors keeping him in Toro Rosso.

        Red Bull could ask Frijns if they would be in need for another very talented driver who is still available.

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