Is Daniil Kvyat ready for Formula 1?

Toro Rosso

In a surprise announcement, Scuderia Toro Rosso have revealed that their new race driver for the 2014 season will be Daniil Kvyat. The 19 year old joins Sergey Sirotkin as a young Russian driver set to race in F1 next year. Many are doubting whether either of them will be ready.

Kvyat leapfrogs da Costa


Part of the reason why Kvyat’s sudden promotion is such a surprise is that he has beaten two Red Bull junior drivers that appear to be better qualified and have been on the radar for longer.

António Félix da Costa was very firmly the flavour of 2012. He began that season as a GP3 driver. Within months he was promoted to a Formula Renault 3.5 seat, whereupon he immediately showed more experienced drivers how it is done.

Some of da Costa’s race performances were intimidatingly good. He finished off the season with four wins out of five races (with the other being a second place finish). He won his final race of the season by 28 seconds.

These cars are arguably the next best thing to a Formula 1 car, so a promotion to Toro Rosso seemed assured. You would think.

Of course, in the world of the Red Bull Junior Team, things are never quite so simple. A difficult season with a heavy dose of bad luck saw him fail to ever take control of the championship.

McLaren favourites Kevin Magnussen and rookie Stoffel Vandoorne battled it out for championship victory, while da Costa came third.

Being beaten by two McLaren prodigies perhaps did not help his cause. But it is not as though da Costa had a bad season. It was not a great season either. He had an OK season. He still took three victories. No doubt if he hadn’t dominated the second half of 2012 everyone would be looking on in admiration at what he has achieved this year.

What has it come to when a driver such as da Costa, who has achieved so much at the age of 22, is not allowed to have one OK season instead of a brilliant one?

Kvyat leapfrogs Sainz Jr

GP3-Belgium-2013-Sprint Race-Carlos Sainz junior

Rumours that Toro Rosso were not going to select António Félix da Costa have been around for some time. But the assumption had been that, were that to be the case, then Carlos Sainz Jr would have been the driver to get the nod. This is what makes Kvyat’s sudden promotion such a surprise.

While Sainz Jr has not had the results that even da Costa has had, his career progression has been clear. Sainz Jr has a wealth of solid Formula 3 experience from 2012. He has been doing a largely good job in GP3 this season. And Red Bull pushed to get him a Formula Renault 3.5 race seat towards the end of the year.

It is not clear to me that Sainz Jr is a better racer than da Costa. The results do not show that yet. But Sainz Jr’s progression up the ranks has been impressive, and his career development appeared to be around a year ahead of Kvyat’s.

Kvyat’s achievements

What Daniil Kvyat has going for him at the moment is a strong run in GP3 recently. But this is not typically a championship where you would expect to find next year’s F1 driver. The cars have nothing like the power or grip of a Formula 1 car or even a Formula Renault 3.5 car.

Kvyat has also been participating in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. He has had a number of fair results, but only one win out of 21 race starts.

On inspection of the race results, it is possible to say that Kvyat may be more ready for F1 than Carlos Sainz Jr. But it’s difficult to understand why he would be given the nod over António Félix da Costa.

The views of Carlin

Jean-Éric Vergne Carlin 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series Circuit Paul Ricard Race 2

It is worth listening to Trevor Carlin because he has seen a lot of future F1 stars at close quarters on their way up the ladder. I would highly recommend Carlin’s chat with Motor Sport magazine about Red Bull’s decision to hire Daniel Ricciardo over Jean-Éric Vergne. His unique expert insight into so many top-level drivers (particularly those that happen to be in Red Bull’s programme) is well worth listening to.

Today, Carlin Motorsport published a very interesting blog post defending Toro Rosso’s decision to select Daniil Kvyat. Unfortunately it just comes across as rather snooty, concluding that people only need to “look beyond” the world of F1 and they would understand.

But the blog post neatly skips over the fact that António Félix da Costa is also a junior driver, but no-one needs any introduction to him or his achievements. You could easily argue that Kvyat, racing in GP3, is a great deal closer to the F1 paddock than a Formula Renault 3.5 driver could be.

Could Kvyat be the next Räikkönen?

As with Sergey Sirotkin, many have been pointing out that experience was not necessary for Kimi Räikkönen. The Finn jumped up to F1 directly from Formula Renault 2.0, which is far less powerful still than any series mentioned so far in this article.

The thing about Kimi Räikkönen is a real one off. Peter Sauber spotted that. At the time his team was sponsored by Red Bull, whose young driver scheme was — and still is — looked after by Helmut Marko.

Frentzen Bernoldi France 2001

Marko disagreed strongly with Sauber over the choice of driver. He was pushing for Red Bull’s own star driver to be given the seat. That star driver was… Enrique Bernoldi.

Sauber stood his ground, and history has proved him correct.

If anyone can spot the next Kimi Räikkönen, it probably isn’t Helmut Marko.

As things stand, Kvyat’s promotion appears to be just the latest in a long line of utterly bizarre Red Bull driver decisions. I hope I am wrong. But most of all I wish all the best for António Félix da Costa, who deserves so much more than this.

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