Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, Yas Marina, 2018

Fourth time lucky? Kvyat’s former team mates believe he deserves another chance

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Precious few drivers get a first chance to impress in Formula 1, let alone a second. But Daniil Kvyat is arguably getting a fourth opportunity to show he deserves a place in the sport.

Between 2014 and 2017 an incredible reversal of fortunes saw him go from newcomer to front runner to ex-driver in next to no time. It left an unmistakable impression Red Bull had both promoted and demoted Kvyat too hastily.

He earned his first chance with Toro Rosso in 2014 as the reigning GP3 champion. When Sebastian Vettel caught Red Bull unawares by jumping ship to Ferrari, Kvyat was at the head of the queue for a promotion to Red Bull, where he seemed to justify his place by out-scoring Daniel Ricciardo in 2015.

But the rapid rise of Max Verstappen spelled an early end for Kvyat’s time at the front-running team. His double-foul start at his home race in 2016 didn’t help matters, as he compromised three of the four Red Bull/Toro Rosso cars.

He got a second chance to impress at Toro Rosso over the rest of the season, however. He had little to show for the rest of the year, however, and as the season wore on it seemed the team had every reason to replace him. Carlos Sainz Jnr was consistently out-scoring him, and the team’s latest young talent Pierre Gasly was in the thick of the GP2 (now F2) title fight.

Start, Sochi, 2016
Kvyat’s 2016 home races was a defining moment
Surprisingly, Red Bull seemed less impressed by Gasly’s GP2 form than they had by Kvyat’s in GP3 three years earlier, and handed Kvyat a third opportunity to prove himself at Toro Rosso. But 2017 yielded more of the same: Sainz was by far the more productive of the two, as Kvyat racked up more penalty points than championship points.

Singapore seemed to capture the state of affairs at Toro Rosso. A jubilant Sainz claimed fourth place, while Kvyat binned his car in tricky conditions 10 laps in. It soon transpired Kvyat didn’t have long left at the team, and he was shown the door a few races later.

It seemed the 23-year-old’s Formula 1 career was at an end. Yet through another strange turn of events Sainz is no longer a Red Bull driver and Kvyat is about to embark on another stint at Toro Rosso.

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What persuaded Red Bull to give him another shot? Undoubtedly there is a degree of expedience involved: the team needs a replacement for Gasly, who has been promoted to Red Bull almost as quickly as Kvyat was.

You could also point to the value Kvyat has gained to the team and Honda’s power unit project by spending a year in the Ferrari simulator. Or the other kind of value he presents in being the sport’s only Russian driver following the departure of Sergey Sirotkin.

Start, Formula BMW, Singapore, 2010
Kvyat leading Sainz and others in Formula BMW
But what teams prize above all else is raw speed. And in the eyes of those best-placed to appreciate it, Kvyat has that potential, even if he wasn’t always able to access it or capitalise on it previously.

“When he left Formula 1, I don’t know why, but I had the feeling he could make it back,” said Sainz last year. Few know Kvyat better than his F1 team mate of 2016-17. The pair also shared teams during their time as Red Bull Junior Team drivers, and Kvyat often came out on top.

“I’ve known Dany for a while and I know how well he recovers from setbacks. And I’ve been together with him since we were both 13 years old so I had that feeling.”

Sainz said he is pleased to see Kvyat get another chance. “I’ve seen how talented he is in all the categories that we’ve been together, before Formula 1, and I’ve seen how talented he is in a Formula 1 car when he gets things together and right. I think he deserves a Formula 1 seat.”

It’s easy to forget Kvyat did fewer races as a Toro Rosso driver before his F1 promotion than Verstappen did. The driver who was team mate to both of them over the past four seasons believes Kvyat has suffered in comparison to Verstappen and expects he will be a better driver for having spent a season away.

“I think the year off will actually be quite good for him,” said Ricciardo. “It’s probably made him realise a few things with himself and I think he’ll appreciate being back in the sport and I think he’ll be more mature. I’m not saying he was immature but I think these things will help him keep a cooler head so he’ll be able to fully reach his potential more consistently.”

Ricciardo was usually the quicker of the two during their only full season together, but Kvyat out-scored him by three points that year.

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Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, Yas Marina, 2018
Kvyat return to Toro Rosso in the post-season test
“On his day he was quick,” said Ricciardo. “Some days I was like ‘hey, he pulled that out’ but I was never sure if he really knew how he was doing it when the next day or maybe a week later he was eight tenths off.

“So the natural talent was there and he definitely knows what he’s doing. He was very young as well. I think some young drivers are able to handle it but I think they’re exceptions.

“Normally, I don’t think a 20-year-old should handle F1 easily. Obviously Max and all that, there’s a few exceptions but to put everyone in that category, it’s too high an expectation.”

There are many examples of F1 drivers like Felipe Massa who arguably came into the top flight too soon and benefited from a season away. Massa was a much more complete driver when he returned to Sauber in 2004, and went on to become a race-winner and championship runner-up.

Kvyat’s occasionally destructive streak in his first F1 stint earned him the nickname ‘torpedo’. If 2019 becomes the first chapter in a long career in the sport, perhaps ‘boomerang’ would be more appropriate. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to some of those already on the grid.

“Dany on his day is very difficult to beat,” said Sainz. “Extremely difficult to beat.

“Mostly [I’m] not here to speak well about my direct competitors but I just want to say I have a lot of respect for him. I keep to myself why and all that but he is definitely a guy who deserves to be in Formula 1.”

@HazelSouthwell contributed to this article.

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Carlos Sainz Jnr, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Sepang, 2010
Sainz, Ricciardo and Kvyat in 2010, before the trio made their F1 debuts

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23 comments on “Fourth time lucky? Kvyat’s former team mates believe he deserves another chance”

  1. Every time Kvyat was ‘promoted’ as F1 race driver Hamilton was on pole.

    Verstappen has to wait until Kvyat’s next demotion to have a ‘guaranteed’ win ;)

    1. @coldfly ”Every time Kvyat was ‘promoted’ as F1 race driver Hamilton was on pole.”
      – Not in India in 2013 (the first race following Kvyat’s F1 promotion announcement), nor Japan in 2014 (the first race after the confirmation of Kvyat taking the RBR-drive vacated by Seb for the following season), so not perfectly accurate.

      1. @jerejj, actual promotion rather than announcement thereof (i.e. MEL’14, MEL’15, BAR’16)

  2. I hope he will do well.

  3. Kvyat was a fairly solid driver at one time, he just needed to work on his consistancy a bit more. But that demotion back to Torro Rosso seemed to affect him and suddenly, it was mistakes all over the place from him.

    To have had a year away may well work for him.

  4. The bottom image, though. Ricciardo at 21, Kvyat and Sainz at 16.

  5. Red Bull’s Marko seems a poor manager of human talent. He doesn’t nurture he hectors, has favourites, and sacks people by phone when they are relaxing and makes nasty comments about drivers once they have left the team.

    Kvyat is not a favourite son and treated harshly as a result. What could have been if a little care and support had been forthcoming.

    The other side of the problem is Verstappen who is treated as the Young Prince and forgiven every infraction, including refusing to save the team points by doing the sensible thing in Monza.

    Marko managed to run out of young driver talent at the end of last year, had to bite his tongue and get Kvyat back and recruit Albon, a reasonable driver but not a proven winner to date, into the Toro Rosso team.

    But out of the Marko shambles one good thing: Kvyat gets another chance.

    1. So a poor manager, managing the best and offering new chances.

    2. Witan – well said, spot on!

  6. I think Red Bull promoted him too early and sacked him too early. Their treatment of him came across like the criticisms of the Red Bull driver system were true – that it’s basically a meat grinder, that all you are is a part in the car and if you don’t work you can and will be swapped. There didn’t seem to be any interest in Kvyat’s well being or mental health and how the demotion would affect him afterward, and when he was clearly struggling there didn’t seem to be any support.

    He’s certainly a talented driver – even if that got lost along the way. I’d prefer to think that this is Red Bull trying to nurture their talent and make up for mistakes instead of discarding them, but I kinda think it’s more they just ran out of people. I wish him luck either way – it’d be a nice story to see him come back with rediscovered form.

    1. +1 to that @rocketpanda – we’ve echoed a lot of the same points!

    2. If you wanted to go down the negative-spin route, I’ve also heard it said that they could be bringing him in more as a known entity so that they can more accurately gauge Alex Albon, who they also dumped previously. Whatever the reasons, he has his chance now, so fingers crossed for his sake he grabs it with both hands.

  7. I’m happy to see Kvyat back, saddened that it is still at a Red Bull team.

    Quoting my comment from over a year ago:

    One part of me says that the seeds of Kvyat’s failure were sown when he was promoted a little to early to the senior team, and its associated pressures (not to mention a top-of-his-form Ricciardo). The subsequent demotion was act II, not the causative factor.

    The other part of me says that anyone in the junior team should be mentally ready to be called up to the senior team (they are the same formulae after all), and one can’t expect a convenient “warm-up” period in the junior team. Put another way, every driver in the junior team must not only be ready but aspire to the senior team, so this was something that Kvyat failed at.

    Swapping seats with Verstappen who them went on to (deserved) glories would have been the final nail in the coffin of Kvyat’s mojo.

    This is a reason I’m still rooting for Kvyat in the other Williams seat – let him have a shot at F1 in a team that’s not part of the Red Bull meat-grinder, and this can then be his F1 make-or-break season.

    That said, seeing the fate of the driver in the “other Williams seat” in 2018, I think it was better for him to spend his time honing Ferrari’s simulator. (Hey, maybe that’s what gave Vettel his experience in ballet-perfect spins?)

    1. You repost your comment from a year ago, as if to validate yourself… that’s not needed.

      How long did you spend trying to convince others that you have a crystal ball?

      1. validate yourself…
        … you have a crystal ball

        Where am I claiming any of that? :-)

        I’ve just recapped my thoughts into why Kvyat fell so badly in 2017. That’s hardly a future prediction. And the one thing I wished for him a year ago (a Williams drive) is – with the benefit of hindsight – something I’m happy didn’t happen.

        1. Yes, I couldn’t bear it if a young driver who had plenty of chances took the seat away from kubica, I know it’s not what you meant but it’d be my biggest annoyance.

      2. Xcm – please keep your comments coming. They give us a good laugh… ;-)

  8. I actually like Kvyat quite a bit. But the only option for him to remain in Formula 1 is to do well right away, and hopefully impress enough to secure a move to another team. I have no doubt that this is just a default measure for Red Bull…not a case of favorite son returning home.

    1. Absolutely, @gpfacts. I am routing for him. He was treated miserably by people who, even if stone-cold calculating, should know that to get the best out of your people you support them as best you can. I really really hope he keeps it together this time because he’s definitely got the talent!

  9. Welcome back torpedo!
    It’s good to see him back, if only because we all know how good it must feel to be asked to return to f1 by the same team that showed him the door previously.

  10. He’s had his moments and hopefully he’s matured into a consistently good driver. Apparently he Ferrari a lot of valuable feedback last year form his simulator work. OTOH, I clearly remember when he hid the skids in his last stint at Torro Rosso that he said many times that he had no idea why he was performing poorly. That’s the last thing I want to hear form driver: he can’t assess his own performance.

  11. Hopefully he’ll have thrown off his demons and prove to be a top choice to STR.

    It also puts pressure on Gasly if Kvyat returns and performs better than expected and he doesn’t, he could find himself facing the same driver swap that Kvyat did.

    Now that would be the ultimate irony.

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