OPINION: KVYAT DROPPED: IS RED BULL AT RISK OF REPEATING HISTORY WITH VERSTAPPEN?
Red Bull Racing has acted swiftly and decisively after the chaos of the Russian Grand Prixstart and has dropped Daniil Kvyat to the Toro Rosso team, to be replaced by Max Verstappen.
The 18 year old moves up after just one season of F1 racing and one season of F3. Kvyat, at 22, is likely to feel that his career is over, but as we posted on Monday, there is still plenty to play for with seats available at the end of this season if he can gather himself together and show his quality in the remaining races.
The promotion of Verstappen comes on the back of a decision earlier this year that Verstappen would be moved up to the Red Bull team for 2017 and clearly there is a lot of anger internally about the way Kvyat destroyed not only his team mate’s race in Russia, but also former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, a title contender.
Having decided his future, it made sense to move Verstappen sooner rather than later in a move of brutal pragmatism.
The obvious risk of this move is that Verstappen is not ready for a seat at one of F1’s top teams. Many who worked with Kvyat at Toro Rosso said that he was not ready in 2015 for the move up after just one season at Toro Rosso, but the move was forced on Red Bull by Vettel’s decision to leave for Ferrari. He had shown flashes of speed and had some decent results but was still a long way off the finished article and had not mastered looking after the rear tyres in races, for example.
In moving a promising youngster up so soon, is Red Bull in danger of making the same mistake? Verstappen looks like one of the great talents, based on some of his performances so far and experienced team sources suggest that he has huge potential. But he lacks consistency at this stage as one would expect of a driver who has completed just 23 Grands Prix and is still 18 years old.
Russia was a good example of the kind of challenge inexperienced drivers faced. Setting a fast qualifying lap is one thing, but to do well in the race in Russia a driver needed to be able to get a set of soft tyres to last at least 34 laps, especially the rears, while maintaining good pace. That’s the kind of challenge of the Pirelli era on tracks like Sochi.
Only experience will help you to do that. We didn’t get to see what Verstappen might do as he retired from a promising position in the top ten. It would have been very instructive.
Verstappen has more quality than Kvyat, more potential and appears to have a better temperament, although some heated radio messages about team orders have shown an emotional side to him.
He doesn’t make many mistakes, considering how hard he is pushing and there is a lot more to come from him. Pairing him with Ricciardo for the next season and a half will be a fantastic preparation for him and at the end of that we will know what kind of Grand Prix driver we have. The Renault engine upgrades will come on stream soon and moving Verstappen now gives him a chance to get up to speed with the team and profit from those upgrades to hopefully challenge for podiums in the second half of the season.
The move is tough on Kvyat, but exciting news for F1, it energises a championship that has become a little lopsided after the dominance of Rosberg and the problems of Hamilton and Vettel.
Australia – China 2014
Kvyat’s F1 career got off to a superb start as he finished ninth at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix to score points on his Toro Rosso debut. In the process he broke Sebastian Vettel’s then record to become the youngest F1 points-scorer, which was broken again a year later by Verstappen at the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Russian finished in the top ten in three of his first four races for Toro Rosso, with his 11th Bahrain the only non-score of those events.
After being called up to the senior Red Bull squad after a single year at Toro Rosso, Kvyat initially struggled to produce results at the start of 2015 and arrived at Monaco with a best showing of ninth, which he had scored twice, to show for his efforts.
Kvyat put his car fifth on the grid, fractionally behind Ricciardo, and then jumped his teammate at the first corner. He was easily holding onto fourth until Red Bull request Ricciardo was allowed through to attack Lewis Hamilton as he had fresher tyres, which Kvyat obliged. Ricciardo handed the place back on the final lap and Kvyat secured what was then his best ever F1 result.
After Monaco, Kvyat would finish in the points ten times from the final 13 races of the 2015 season and beat Ricciardo to seventh in the drivers’ championship, but his drive at Hungary was easily the highlight.
Kvyat certainly owes much of his second place finish to the misfortune of many of the drivers who started ahead of him in the chaotic race, but he did well to overcome a ten-second time penalty for overtaking outside the limits of the track.
To date, this result remains his best ever finish in F1.
Kvyat immediately followed up his first F1 podium finish with what he felt was the best drive of his Red Bull career as he climbed from a disappointing 12th on the grid to fourth in the race at Spa.
Again, the retirements of some drivers ahead of him helped Kvayt’s cause, but his charge on the soft tyres at the end of the race helped him to overtake four drivers in the closing stages to finish just off the podium.
Kvyat produced one the best laps of his career to qualifying fourth behind the might Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
He jumped the man he replaced at Red Bull off the line and was looking secure in third before the safety car gave Williams’ Valtteri Bottas the chance to jump him at the restart and he had to settle for fourth.
The debate over who was at fault for the Ferrari drivers’ colliding at the first corner of the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix will continue to run, but Kvyat saw a gap, went for it, and came out of the corner in second place.
From then on he drove well and was never likely to hold Vettel off given the Ferrari’s power unit advantage on a track where overtaking is relatively easy, and was voted Driver of the Day for his exploits.
His third place was Red Bull’s first and so far only podium of the season and came just one race before his errors in Sochi cost him his drive with the senior squad.
What do you make of Red Bull’s decision to drop Kvyat and call up Verstappen? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.