Daniil Kyvat's F1 Future
A look at the F1 career of Daniil Kvyat so far and assessing his future in Formula One
Daniil Kvyat has had a rocky career in Formula One to date with a number of spells at what was considered until very recently as Red Bull’s ‘junior team’ along with just over a season at the top team, Red Bull. Perhaps now is the time to reassess his standing in the Red Bull programme and whether he still has a future in Formula One. But first, let’s look at his career to date.
Toro Rosso (First Sint)
Daniil Kyvat became a F1 driver straight out of GP3 at the tender age of 19 for what was then known as Scuderia Toro Rosso, now AlphaTauri. He had an impressive first season in 2014, scoring points on five occasions and most notably on his Formula One debut where he qualified 10th and finished 9th.
Like his current team-mate Pierre Gasly, Kyvat was promoted to Red Bull for the 2015 season after just one short season at Toro Rosso. I feel that it is fair to conclude that this was too premature, not just given his limited F1 experience but also he was very young at the time to be propelled into the spotlight in a championship-winning outfit. The pressure was only heighted by the fact that he would be partnering Daniel Ricciardo, who was the clear team leader after a stunning 2014 season. Kyvat was still effectively trying to find his feet in Formula One, having just entered his 20’s. Whilst there is some sympathy in the handling of Kyvat’s career when it was in its early stages, Kyvat himself knew very well what Formula One and Red Bull is all about: pressure. As a Formula One driver, there is a constant pressure from the team, media, sponsors and fans to perform weekend in and weekend out usually 20 or more times a year. If a driver cannot cope with the pressure very quickly, then they will be easily replaced. It has always been the case in Formula One that the supply is significantly higher than the demand; there are always too many drivers vying for too few seats. Turning to the Red Bull programme itself, it has an established history of being ruthless with drivers that do not perform to their high expectations. The likes of Sebastian Buemi, Jean-Eric Vergne and co have been forgotten in the F1 paddock.
In 2015, Kyvat finished 7th in the driver’s championship, having recorded his first podium finish with a 2nd place in Hungary. He beat Daniel Ricciardo in the standings by three points. However, this does not tell the full picture of how the season unfolded as the Red Bull suffered a number of failures with the Renault power unit and this was where their relationship with the French manufacturer deteriorated. In qualifying, Kyvat was comprehensively outclassed by Ricciardo with a record of 14-5 over the course of the season. Along with this, he had two high profile crashes at the end of the season in Japan and USA which put him under increasing scrutiny going into 2016.
Under pressure and the emergence of Max Verstappen, Kyvat was dropped by Red Bull after just four races into the season. This was despite Kyvat taking the team’s first podium of the season at the 3rd round in China. Although, at that race he did create controversy by causing the two Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen to collide, with Vettel famously labelling Kvyat ‘the torpedo’. The final straw for Red Bull was at the Russian Grand Prix when Kyvat again collided with Vettel and he was immediately replaced with Verstappen. Looking back, this was perhaps harsh by the Red Bull management. But on balance, it was completely understandable as Max Verstappen was creating a lot of attention among rival teams in the paddock and so Red Bull wanted to ensure he remained with him by rewarding him with a top tier seat. While the car was not very competitive during his time at Red Bull, Kvyat did not out-perform the car and prove that he could at least become a championship contender in the future if he had the machinery.
Subsequent spells with Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri
Kyvat has spent the remainder of his F1 career so far with Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri, save the 2018 season where he was dropped by then subsequently re-hired for the following season. Throughout this time, he has performed averagely with the only stand-out result being an excellent 3rd place in the 2019 German Grand Prix. Ever since Gasly has returned to the team, Kyvat has been consistently outperformed, with Gasly going one better than Kyvat in 2019 with a 2nd place at the Brazilian Grand Prix before taking the team’s first win since 2008 at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza in 2020.
The 2020 season with AlphaTauri should be seen as a make-or-break season for Kyvat’s career and he has struggled to live up to expectations. He currently lies 14th in the standings with 10 points to his name, with team-mate Gasly on 43 points. In the first six reasons of the season, Kyvat was outqualified by Gasly in every session. These statistics do not point towards Kyvat being able to justify his place on the Formula One grid. There are only 20 seats available in F1, and I think it would be fair to say that Kyvat has had a number of opportunities from the Red Bull to demonstrate his potential and he has not been able to take full advantage of that, particularly since his demotion to Toro Rosso in 2016. It seems that Kyvat will be replaced at the end of the season by a Red Bull junior, with the likelihood being Yuki Tsunoda who is set for a test in the AlphaTauri car at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi.
With Kyvat’s struggles, it leads question whether Kyvat would perform better outside Red Bull? Perhaps, but in reality there are only vacancies for 2021 left at Alfa Romeo and Haas. With Hulkenberg and Perez looking for seats, it seems very likely that Kyvat’s F1 career could well by over at the very least for the 2021 season.