Formula 1 is a harsh business … and few know that better than Daniil Kvyat.
In less than four seasons, the young Russian has become a case study in the perks and pitfalls of being in a junior driver program, where timing is just as important as performance.
Kvyat was picked up by Red Bull when he was just 16, the junior team status paving his rise through Formula BMW, Formula Renault and GP3, winning the series in 2013.
The 19-year-old was in the right place at the right time. Mark Webber’s retirement set off a chain reaction, Red Bull picking Kvyat over both Carlos Sainz and highly-rated Antonio Felix de Costa to make his F1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2014.
Lightning struck again at the end of the year. Sebastian Vettel’s defection to Ferrari opened a seat at the top of the Red Bull tree.
As he had against Jean-Eric Vergne, Kvyat performed strongly facing a known quantity in Daniel Ricciardo. He became the face of his home grand prix, and 2016 promised to be a breakthrough year.
20 months later, the United States GP was Kyvat’s last under the Red Bull program’s umbrella.
“Kvyat will not return again,” says Dr Helmut Marko. “We do not believe he can make the turnaround in the long-term.”
In 2016, Kvyat’s timing went against him. A mistake on the opening lap of the Russian Grand Prix took out teammate Ricciardo and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. It would be Kvyat’s last race in a Red Bull F1 car.
By the next race in Spain, Red Bull swapped he and Max Verstappen, the Russian watching the 18-year-old win his race in his old car.
The next 14 months saw a failing relationship, that culminated in a break up before the Mexican Grand Prix.
“Both parties lost confidence in each other,” says Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost. “In such a situation, it’s better to say OK, we stop the cooperation and this gives Daniil the chance to look for another team and to look for his future.”
Toro Rosso has since moved on with Pierre Gasly and now two-time World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley, but Kvyat is still gunning for an F1 lifeline with Williams in 2018.
Will Kvyat get the chance to rebuild his confidence and reputation and become a mainstay of the F1 grid in years to come? Only time will tell.