THIRD TIME LUCKY FOR DANIIL KVYAT?
In what has turned out to be one of the most remarkable driver silly seasons on record, Red Bull have turned to a man they have already discarded twice.
Back in 2016, Kvyat found himself relegated from Red Bull Racing to Toro Rosso after a difficult start to the season – opening the way for Max Verstappen to take his place and secure a memorable maiden victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Kvyat endured a further 18 largely unproductive months at Toro Rosso, during which he and the team began to blame each other for shortcomings in performance. He was dropped for Pierre Gasly, and failed to regain a seat when Carlos Sainz moved to Renault.
Kvyat became a Ferrari development driver, to all intents and purposes a simulator jockey, and his racing days appeared to be over. But only superficially; quietly, Kvyat was working towards making a comeback, and to that end he even engaged the management services of Nicolas Todt, one of the sport’s key movers and shakers.
The opportunity came with Daniel Ricciardo’s defection from Red Bull to Renault. Red Bull quickly promoted Gasly to fill the vacancy, leaving a void at Toro Rosso: not only was Brendon Hartley’s future uncertain, Red Bull currently have no junior drivers who can qualify for a superlicence. Kvyat spied an opportunity.
In fact, Kvyat was well-informed enough – perhaps as a result of Todt’s connections – to have opened
“RATHER NAIVELY I PUT UP THIS IMAGE ON THE SCREEN AND ALL THE PHONES CAME OUT... ROSS BRAWN
communications with Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko even before Ricciardo served notice.
Marko says: “He was informed about Ricciardo’s move before it was announced, so he rang me before Ricciardo did. But we had been in contact before that already.”
Those earlier conversations had left Marko with the impression that Kvyat’s year on the sidelines had actually helped his mental strength – and helped him to develop a resilience and maturity that had perhaps been lacking during previous spells at Toro Rosso and Red Bull.
“He’s more hungry, and he saw how difficult it is to get a seat in F1,” says Marko. “He told me the reasons things happened. His whole environment is a much better one.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner – who was instrumental in both the promotion and demotion of Kvyat during his Red Bull years – reckoned that rejection was the biggest obstacle Kvyat had to surmount.
“That was very tough for him,” says Horner. “In 2015 he was very strong. Montreal and Mexico were very good races for him. But 2016 was much tougher. It’s a second coming for him. He’s still young, hungry, and a bit of time outside F1 gives an opportunity to reflect, rebuild and regroup. He’s still a very talented driver.”
During Kvyat’s brief time in a top seat, and during his fall from grace, what often distinguished his performances was a fragility under pressure. His tendency to make poor decisions under duress – evinced by a number of high-profile first-lap crashes – undermined a reputation built on tremendous natural speed. The question now is whether his enforced sabbatical has enabled him to develop sufficient resilience when he enters the spotlight again.
“Obviously one thing I know for sure I am very positive now, very happy to be back, and that’s all,” Kvyat says. “But you know you cannot be happy forever.”
IT’S A SECOND COMING FOR HIM. HE’S STILL YOUNG, HUNGRY, AND A BIT OF TIME OUTSIDE F1 GIVES AN OPPORTUNITY TO REFLECT, REBUILD AND REGROUP CHRISTIAN HORNER
Kvyat didn’t take rejection lying down, and saw a future for himself beyond being a Ferrari ‘sim jockey’
Kvyat was demoted back to Toro Rosso and ultimately sacked towards the end of 2017