Toro Rosso set for Gasly/Hartley line-up in 2018 as Kvyat officially dropped
Toro Rosso's Franz Tost confirmed that Red Bull has dropped Daniil Kvyat from its driver programme, as it is working towards finalising the 2018 line-up.
"He is not anymore with Red Bull [& Toro Rosso] and therefore he is free to decide whatever he wants to do," said Tost in Mexico's press conference.
The Toro Rosso chief also revealed that the team is looking to confirm Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley for the 2018 Formula 1 season - supposedly clearing Hartley from his speculated IndyCar drive.
"Both [Gasly/Hartley] are Red Bull drivers, both are high-skilled drivers, fast driver and we want to test them for the rest of the season, because there is a high possibility that this will be the driver line-up for 2018.
Kvyat had joined the Red Bull Junior Team in 2010 and claimed titles in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps and the GP3 Series in 2012 and 2013 respectively. After spending a year as Toro Rosso's reserve, he graduated to a race seat in 2014 with the Red Bull junior outfit, where he finished 15th in the standings.
An untimely departure of Sebastian Vettel from the senior Red Bull squad, forced the energy drinks company to push Kvyat to replace Vettel in 2015. The Russian finished the season in seventh taking his maiden podium (P2) in Hungary - his best result in his F1 career so far.
After colliding with Vettel twice in his home grand prix in 2016, Kvyat was demoted to Toro Rosso from the Spanish Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen taking his seat. Since the demotion, the Russian has only scored six points in 31 races and was easily beaten by teammate Carlos Sainz for the rest of 2016 and 2017 until the Singapore Grand Prix.
He was then replaced by Gasly in Malaysia and Japan, before making one-off return in USA - where he scored a point - but wasn't retained for Mexico, with the team staying with Hartley, being joined by Gasly - which indicated his removal from Red Bull programme.
Red Bull's chief Christian Horner defended the decision to drop the Russian, since he wasn't delivering despite the chances presented. "Dany Kvyat has obviously had a large investment from Red Bull over the years," he said.
"He had the opportunity to step into Red Bull Racing and compete in the 2015 season and the start of the 2016 season with the team. Formula One is a tough business and unfortunately Dany didn’t do enough, in our opinion, to warrant retaining that seat.
"But we still believed in him and he was given a second opportunity, which is very unusual in Formula One, to retake the seat with Toro Rosso. And then from there we obviously have other juniors that we have invested in that are knocking on the door of Formula One.
"The current GP2 champion, Pierre Gasly, merited and deserved an opportunity to step into Formula One. And I think, as Franz will no doubt cover, and as he has done in his previous answer, there is very much an eye on the future and the future for next year and beyond that.
"And I think the two drivers that Franz has for next year represent two exciting prospects for Red Bull Racing potentially further down the line," he explained.
Meanwhile, he credited Hartely for keeping his calm at difficult times when he was dropped from the programme initially and then worked his way to glory in the World Endurance Championship, which paved the way for a F1 return.
"What is fantastic about the Brendon story is, that is a guy who started off life on the junior programme. He got dropped early on in his career from the junior programme. There was no remorse, there was no “poor me” or “haven’t I been badly treated”.
"At the time he thanked Red Bull for the opportunity and endeavoured to stay in touch. At that point he had nothing else to race. He went back to racing Minis, historic Formula One cars, anything he could get his hands on he raced.
"He showed a passion and a commitment to keep doing what he believed in himself as a race car driver. He renewed his association with Red Bull when he became a sports car driver with Porsche, and became a world champion, and again is competing for that world championship again this year.
"And I think it’s testimony to him, his determination and tenacity, and skill and talent that he has got himself back into a position where he has been selected to be in the Toro Rosso car for the races that he is doing," said Horner.