Column: Can Daniil Kvyat get revenge on Red Bull and Pierre Gasly?

27-03-2019 08:00
by Nicolás Quarles van Ufford
Column
Column: Can Daniil Kvyat get revenge on Red Bull and Pierre Gasly?

Currently in his third stint at Toro Rosso, it's safe to say Daniil Kvyat's Formula 1 career has been a bumpy ride. The man who was once demoted from Red Bull to Toro Rosso and later axed in favour of Pierre Gasly, however, could now get his ultimate revenge - take Gasly's seat at Red Bull.

I really felt for Kvyat in 2017 when he got axed from Toro Rosso and the entire Red Bull program. Things had played out in an extremely unfortunate way for him leading up to Pierre Gasly taking his seat. Yes, he had a lot of accidents which were of his own doing, but I have always thought he's been very unlucky too. And there was a bit of an agenda against him.

Rough around the edges

Let's rewind the clock to October 2014. Sebastian Vettel, a four-time champion at Red Bull, announced he would be leaving the team. Kvyat, a rookie at the time, was announced as his replacement, as he was the better choice between himself and Jean-Éric Vergne. He was clearly a very quick driver, but at the same time (and what do you expect from a rookie) very rough around the edges. In any case, he had massive boots to fill at Red Bull heading into his second season.

And, to be fair to him, he did well. He actually finished the 2015 season with a podium and above teammate Daniel Ricciardo, something which people easily forget. The 'rough around the edges' tag, however, started to grow into a bit of a concern. His crash in Q3 in Japan was very, very sloppy. Watch him clip the grass before he tumbles in his RB11.

 And now, watch him ride the COTA kerbs hard during a wet USA Grand Prix, resulting into another sloppy spin.

The thing is, Kvyat was actually having a hell of a race up until that point. He was fighting for the lead in a car that normally wasn't quick enough to do so. There is so much talent there, but these brain farts have cost the Russian throughout his career.

'The Torpedo'

His reputation got way worse in 2016. When he sent his RB12 hard down the inside of Vettel at turn one of the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix, he surprised the German and left him with little room, which resulted in him tagging his teammate Kimi Raikkonen on the left. 

After the Grand Prix, Vettel, who was furious with Kvyat over the incident, said in front of the camera's that he "came in like a torpedo" on that overtake. And just like that, the nickname was born.

Funny thing is; how was that Kvyat's fault? Vettel left a gap and Kvyat dove into it, he took the opportunity. I think it was a brilliant overtake, ruined by Raikkonen who came across into Vettel's racing line out of nowhere. Kimi probably expected Vettel to hug the inside kerb, to be fair, but it doesn't take away that Kvyat did absolutely nothing wrong. The fact that he earned his Torpedo nickname from there is harsh.

Decline

What followed at the Russian Grand Prix a few weeks later, however, is indefensible. 

At the start of Kvyat's home race, he ran into the back of that same Vettel not once, but twice in the first three corners. Twice! He knocked Vettel out of the race with the second hit, prompting the German to have a rant over his team radio while flailing his arms in disbelief.

To make matters worse, he'd also damaged Ricciardo's Red Bull in the process, meaning both of the Bulls' cars finished way down in the grid. That turned out to be the perfect excuse for Red Bull to strip the 22-year-old Kvyat of his seat in favour of the mercurial Max Verstappen

The Torpedo was demoted to Toro Rosso, which Red Bull claimed was to diffuse the rivalry between Verstappen and Carlos Sainz at the Faenza-based team. 

Needless to say, his confidence was shot at this point. He struggled throughout the rest of the 2016 season next to Sainz but was somewhat surprisingly re-signed for 2017. Out of guilt, probably. 

Things didn't get better in 2017, though. Again, there were multiple accidents for Kvyat combined with a lot of reliability issues. In Austria, he knocked both Verstappen and Fernando Alonso off the track at turn one, and he crashed into teammate Sainz at the British Grand Prix as well. After the USA Grand Prix that year, a race which he dubbed the best of his season, he got cut from the team in favour of Gasly.

A new man

Without a seat in F1, Kvyat took a background role at Ferrari as a sim driver. He clearly needed that, to be away from the circus that is F1. Not get mocked, not get grilled by the media, just some down-time to clear his mind while still keeping one foot in the F1 world at Ferrari.

Luckily for him, both of Toro Rosso's drivers in 2018 left after the season - Gasly got promoted to Red Bull and Brendon Hartley became surplus to demand. Two open spots; Kvyat's name was on one of those seats. And sure enough, it was announced - Kvyat was back!

Speaking ahead of the 2019 season, Kvyat kept telling that he was a new man, a new driver in a better place mentally. He then backed that up with a strong winter test and an even stronger Australian Grand Prix. More importantly: he overtook Gasly's Red Bull and then kept the Frenchman behind him in a Toro Rosso, rescuing a point for the team. Incredible!

Gasly's terrible start to life at Red Bull has already got people questioning the Frenchman. On top of that, Kvyat - the man who got axed to make way for Gasly at Toro Rosso - was keeping him behind him in a significantly weaker car. Have Red Bull made a mistake?

Full circle

If Kvyat, still only 24, can continue this form, and more importantly, if Gasly doesn't pick up his form, the Russian really could take his seat. And that, ladies and gentleman, would be the perfect ending to this story.

Kvyat, once demoted from Red Bull, would now demote another driver from there. And not just any driver, but specifically the driver that ended the first stint of his F1 career back in 2017. It would be so, so perfect. Full circle. Please, F1 gods, make this happen.

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