F1

What next for ‘the Torpedo’?

Daniil Kvyat’s F1 career has been a rollercoaster, and now the ride looks to be over. RealSport takes a look back at what went wrong, and what options he has now.

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Not so long ago Daniil Kvyat’s career was promising and went uphill very quickly. After successful years in the Formula Renault categories the Russian won the GP3 championship in his first season in 2013. With Mark Webber’s retirement Daniel Ricciardo moved up the ladder to the senior Red Bull team, and this opened a free spot at Toro Rosso which was given to the young Russian to have his first Formula 1 race at the age of 19. 

And he did not disappoint, finishing ninth at the 2014 Australian GP to score his first points and break the record of Sebastian Vettel being the youngest points scorer in F1 history (before Max Verstappen broke that record again one year later). 

Despite having less points than Jean-Eric Vergne, who was in his third season with Toro Rosso, Red Bull promoted the young Russian to Red Bull Racing after the sudden announcement of Vettel’s move to Ferrari for 2015.

Early promotion to Red Bull Racing

The question here is: Did this move came too early for the Russian? To take the more experienced Jean-Eric Vergne would have been a safer solution, but Red Bull are known for taking risks as they did in the same year by giving Max Verstappen a drive after just his first single-seater season in Formula 3. Obviously the powers that be thought Kvyat was ready, and there was a clear belief that he would do well in the Red Bull A team.

The 2015 season went quite well for the Russian, but it cannot really be compared to other Red Bull years because that season was probably the worst Red Bull have experienced in recent years. Renault tried too hard to improve their engine which caused a lack of reliability. Red Bull publicly threatened to look for another engine like Mercedes or even Honda, but still decided (through a lack of realistic alternatives) to stick with Renault and brand it differently.

Apart from all that drama Kvyat still managed to score a few more points than the highly rated Daniel Ricciardo (95:92), although it’s still hard to measure since there were lots of engine penalties applied which caused each driver to start further down the grid on numerous occasions. Looking at the numbers for the qualifying battle it’s a win for the Australian at 12:7, but still not too bad for Kvyat for just being in his second season. In Hungary he also achieved his first podium of his career in a chaotic race where the both Mercedes messed up and gave their rivals more space on the podium.

Enter ‘Torpedo’

Coming to the 2016 season the Russian could not even start the first race in Australia through a technical issue with his car. After a seventh place in Bahrain, Kvyat achieved his second podium finish in China after an ambitious move into turn one, getting ahead of both Ferraris which were surprised by the attack of the Russian and collided with each other. Here’s when Sebastian Vettel famously branded Kvyat with his new nickname ‘Torpedo’ in the pre-podium room after the race.

At the beginning of the Chinese GP Ricciardo was leading the race, but got a puncture after a few laps. Would it have been enough for the win? You could clearly tell that the Australian had better pace than Kvyat at the start of the 2016 season and that this podium was surely a result of lucky circumstances since Hamilton also started from further back.

Did these circumstances put Kvyat under too much pressure? The next grand prix was his home race in Russia where he managed to crash into the Ferrari of Vettel not only once, but twice, in the first few corners, resulting  in the German ending his day in the wall. 

The hit in turn one also minimised the chances of Ricciardo, who lost positions due to the first corner chaos, and the race ended with both Red Bulls finishing outside the points. These two races would prove very costly to Kvyat.

Back to Toro Rosso

A few days later it was announced that Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen would switch cockpits, a move which was criticised by many other drivers and experts who wondered aloud whether the demands of the Red Bull team were too high, or whether Kvyat deserved to be demoted just one race after standing on the podium in China.

Kvyat described the call from Dr. Helmut Marko informing him about the situation as ‘a shock’ and kept him on the line asking for more details. Understandable or not, it was a mentally tough situation, made even worse when Verstappen won the next race in Spain in the Russian’s former car. The move seemed rather like an early promotion for the Dutchman to keep him in the Red Bull family since other teams had already showed an interest in his talents. 

In terms of points Kvyat had no chance against his new teammate Carlos Sainz, who scored regularly, and the Russian scored just four points with three top ten finishes for the rest of the season.

Despite all that Red Bull showed mercy and gave Kvyat a chance to get back to his best by allowing him to continue with Toro Rosso in 2017, but the situation did not improve. Kvyat got close to reaching 12 penalty points after collisions with Sainz and Verstappen at the starts of the British and Austrian GPs, and his points tally looked as bad as the year before: Only four points before Singapore with teammate Sainz scoring 48. 

After that night race ended in the wall again, this gave the team an excuse to give another Red Bull junior driver a chance: Pierre Gasly.

Leaving the Red Bull family and now?

It looked bad for Kvyat. With Sainz moving to Renault after Suzuka and Gasly unable to participate at the United States Grand Prix, the Russian got another chance, finishing tenth and praising himself afterwards for a great race where everything went well. One day later though it was announced that Gasly and Hartley would finish the season with Toro Rosso.

At the weekend of the following Mexican Grand Prix it was also revealed that Kvyat had left the Red Bull family and is now free to do what he wants. Both parties lost trust in each other, especially after the situations they have been through, with Dr. Marko saying that he does not believe Kvyat could make the turnaround in the long-term.

But Christian Horner sounded more optimistic, and even said Kvyat can now try to put himself into a position for Williams next season, making the list for possible drivers along Lance Stroll even longer. With Felipe Massa’s announcement to finally retire this season it’s a long list of possible candidates, but in terms of a Formula 1 seat for 2018 that looks like his only option right now.

Maybe he could try to get in somewhere as a third driver with the option to return to Formula 1 in 2019, or maybe take part in another series in 2018 like Formula E. Being released from Red Bull a few races before the end of the year could help him to better evaluate his options for next year and the continuation of his career, with or without Formula 1.

Did Kvyat deserve to be dropped by Red Bull? Could his career have gone a different way? Vote and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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