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Analysis: What Toro Rosso's decision means for Daniil Kvyat

Written by  Sep 26, 2017

Time and time again, Red Bull have shown themselves to be the most ruthless team in the Formula 1 driver market, adopting a strategy of relentless promotion which has delivered multiple world championships and race victories.

Yet inevitably, for every beneficiary of this unique career ladder, there is a victim. While Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo have made the leap from the plucky midfield challenger to race-winning machinery, young talents like Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi and Jean-Eric Vergne have been rather abruptly shown the door.

None, though, have been humiliated quite like Daniil Kvyat. The memories of the Russian's early success have been nigh-on effaced by his present misery, but they provide a clear indication of his undeniable talent. 

After a highly-impressive rookie year, in which Kvyat demonstrated a maturity beyond his tender years, he was parachuted into the senior team and would out-score Daniel Ricciardo, one of the most highly-rated drivers in the F1 paddock, over the course of the 2015 season. 

Early in the 2016 campaign, there was another flash of immense promise as Kvyat hauled the Red Bull to an excellent podium finish at the Chinese Grand Prix, but things would dramatically unravel at the very next race.

Red Bull was looking for an opportunity to promote Max Verstappen, one of the most exciting talents the sport had ever seen, from Toro Rosso and Kvyat handed it to them on a silver platter with a clumsy race-ending collision on the first lap of the Russian Grand Prix.

It was a controversial decision born out of the awe surrounding Verstappen rather than any disappointment with Kvyat's performances, but his confidence was predictably shattered.

In the 17 races which followed his demotion, Kvyat could only muster three points finishes as he found himself swiftly leapfrogged by Sainz in the Red Bull pecking order. 

2017 has seen an extension of his struggles, with just four points to Sainz's 48 and an unfortunate new nickname to boot. A series of incidents have seen the 'torpedo's' once-lofty reputation deteriorate in an excruciating fashion.

Indeed, one wonders if carelessly crashing out in Singapore, and thereby forfeiting an excellent opportunity for some much-needed points, proved the final straw for his impatient employers.

Pierre Gasly's Super Formula commitments mean Kvyat is likely to be behind the wheel once more in Austin, but his season is effectively over at this point. Can the same, though, be said for his F1 career?

Replacement Gasly may be a former GP2 champion who has impressed in the Far East but, in the eyes of Red Bull, he's no Max Verstappen. This time, Kvyat has run out of lives and been rudely shoved aside to make away for the latest product of the young driver programme.

"For a variety of reasons, some of them due to technical problems, but others being mistakes of his own making, Daniil Kvyat has not really shown his true potential so far this year, which is why we are standing him down for the next races," said team boss Franz Tost.

It is rare that in the PR hotbed that is a Formula 1 press release, the team's hierarchy would take aim at the departing driver.

Toro Rosso, then, has made quite a statement (literally and figuratively). The in-form Carlos Sainz is off to join rivals, Renault, next year, but he will stay put while Kvyat is sidelined - an embarrassing scenario.

However, the team will be looking for an experienced driver to fill the Sainz-shaped hole and must harbour a degree of empathy for a driver treated so harshly. More importantly, there is no immediate competition for the seat alongside Gasly.

Honda junior and three-time F2 winner Nobuharu Matsushita has been tentatively linked after the Japanese manufacturer agreed a deal to supply Toro Rosso, but he has insufficient points on his superlicence, while Sean Gelael, who drove the car in Singapore Grand Prix practice, has yet to prove himself in the junior formulae. Even his vast backing is not enough to persuade Red Bull at this stage.

As a result, most expect a line-up of Kvyat and Gasly, but perhaps it's not quite that simple, for it would be naive to assume Red Bull are not on the lookout for alternatives, having exposed a total lack of faith in their current incumbent. 

The news will deal a fatal blow to Kvyat's reputation and surely deter any other teams from taking the gamble on a wasted talent. Indeed, even he remains in F1, you sense the present nightmare would only be prolonged as the 23-year-old's confidence hits rock bottom.

The fact is, Red Bull use Toro Rosso as a guinea pig to prepare drivers for the senior team. It is Sainz, effectively loaned to Renault, who they see as the future world champion, meaning it would be extraordinary if Kvyat was handed another shot at the big time. His days are clearly numbered.

Few in the F1 paddock will not feel some sympathy for Kvyat, but unfortunately, that's not enough to survive in the cut-throat world of Formula 1. It has been clear for some time now this is not a tale destined for a happy ending. 

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