Kvyat or Gutierrez…who’s not gelling with the team?

Friday’s Free Practice session in Spain for the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend transpired like it normally does but there was a new driver in the Red Bull Racing (RBR) car and the Toro Rosso (STR) car. In fact, the drivers swapped positions. Daniil Kvyat was demoted to the STR ride to fill the seat of Max Verstappen who moved in to Kvyat’s ride at RBR.

Watching the NBC Sports broadcast, there were some comments made by the guys suggesting that perhaps part of this move was down to the Russian, Kvyat, not really gelling with the team. Their sources are universally better than mine so I take their word for it but it did make me wonder a bit about what RBR demands from a driver as far as gelling goes.

The Russian had a good first season at the team in 2015 but Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko said he had fallen off the pace of his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo. Fair enough but let’s be honest, that’s a hefty measuring stick for a young kid who inherited the seat when Sebastian Vettel left for Ferrari.

Sure, you would expect him to be pressured to perform but to me, Danny was just moving from that stage of rookie to potential challenger and pressing the limits more as his race craft developed. He was bound to make mistakes along the way. Just like Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and many others before him.

There is more to gelling with a team than your overall pace and perhaps this is where the issues roost. Maybe the cool exterior and attitude just isn’t what the team are looking for and again, when compared to the effusive, gregarious and downright charming personality of his teammate, Ricciardo, that’s a huge measuring stick. Even Vettel wasn’t that damned infectious. I do think there is another side of Daniel Ricciardo that just hasn’t completely revealed its ruthless self yet.

In all, Kvyat will have a hard road ahead and his first goal is to beat his new teammate, Carlos Sainz, at STR. Doing that will show any other prospective employers that sending him down was a mistake. He has to show his ability and put the demotion behind him.

When we talk about gelling with a team, perhaps Haas F1’s Esteban Gutierrez’s explosive mind vomit on Friday would be an example on how not to win friends at your team and if folks felt Kvyat was not quite gelling, how about this from Esteban:

“I honestly put myself aside from this because it’s not really my responsibility to fix the car,” said Gutierrez.

“The team has to get on top of this. I am here to drive, to drive as fast as possible, and it is what I really love doing.

“It’s not nice because it’s making me look very bad to the outside as a driver, personally.

“All the fucking great job I’m doing on the inside is not really perceived by the outside. So it’s a little bit frustrating.

“Also, showing my pace, I’ve been quick, I just hope to get the car that I deserve in order to put the results on paper.”

Suggested to Gutierrez it was difficult to remain positive, again he pointed an accusing finger at the team.

“I don’t worry about myself. At the moment I feel very good,” added Gutierrez.

“But this pressure is not on me – this pressure is on the people responsible for it.”

This doesn’t seem to be the voice of a driver who is thinking long-term with the team or a driver who is there because he had to pay big dollars for the seat. It sounds like a driver who is there because Ferrari put him there through their partner relationship with Haas F1.

When a driver divorces himself from the team as well as the efforts and issues they are facing, it’s never a good sign. Frustration can surely get the best of all of us but the team won’t take these words lightly. They are all professionals and no doubt doing the best they can for a new team who is punching way above their weight.

Esteban has a reason to be frustrated for sure. He’s struggled terribly this season and scored no points while his teammate, Romain Grosjean, has been the darling of the team and press giving them all of their points in what otherwise has been a real revelation this season.

Regardless, Lewis Hamilton has had his issues and so has Sebastian Vettel with two DNF’s and neither of them have divorced themselves from the team, said they are here to drive only and the team has to get their crap together. I could be wrong but I can’t imagine that Esteban is long for the F1 world with an attitude like that. Team’s beat themselves up enough and no one wants to have their driver slating them in the press. Robert Kubica was known to do this from time to time at BMW and it got tedious and reflected very poorly on him.