Feature image: redbull.com
It’s safe to say that Daniil Kvyat’s time in Formula 1 up to now has been rather hit and miss, with him fluctuating in and out of the Red Bull driver programmes which has seen him spend no more than two years with the same team at a time in his eight-year stint in F1.
Since signing with the Red Bull Junior Team in 2009, the Russian enjoyed a successful karting career as well as holding his own in the lower formulae. He beat his former team-mate and current Tifosi favourite Carlos Sainz Jr. to the GP3 Series championship in 2013, before being catapulted into Formula 1 with Toro Rosso the following season.
He replaced the recently promoted Daniel Ricciardo at the Scuderia and quickly made his mark, breaking Sebastian Vettel’s record of being the youngest points scorer in a Grand Prix with his P9 in Australia. A pretty standard season saw him finish 15th in the standings but the unexpected news of Sebastian Vettel breaking free from Red Bull and opting for the burgundy of Maranello meant Kvyat was promoted to drive for Red Bull in 2015.
Racing for one of the better teams on the grid in only his second season, Kvyat actually outscored his more experienced team-mate and proven race winner Ricciardo throughout the season. While Daniel’s qualifying pace saw him outscore Daniil 12 – 7 in the team-mate comparison, the Russian had an edge on the race pace which saw him beat the Australian 8 – 7.
Recalling his time at Red Bull and their sister team Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri), Daniil is confident that he left everything on the track, “Looking back at it, even more now, with the current situations of drivers they have, I’m really proud of what I achieved there. And to be honest, if you look at it now, there’s almost nothing I could have done.
“And this is something what gives me confidence moving in the future, what I’ve been doing. And looking back at it, I was very down about it, but now looking at things, how other drivers take it, I definitely can tell you that I actually can look back with my head high up.”
Kvyat was unfortunate to lose his seat at Red Bull in 2016 after he started the season well with a podium in China, but the raw talent of Max Verstappen who was performing magnificently at Toro Rosso was too much for the Red Bull chiefs to look past. Daniil was replaced for the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, and well we all know how that worked out for the Austrian constructor.
He struggled to find his feet back at the sister team of Toro Rosso and following another tough 2017 campaign, Kvyat was released from the Red Bull programme. He was quickly signed up by Ferrari as a third driver, although the only running other than simulator he managed to get was some wet weather tests in Maranello.
He has recently taken up similar duties with Alpine F1, after his departure from AlphaTauri for the third time at the end of 2020. He signed up as a reserve driver, a role that saw a decent bit of action last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nico Hülkenburg was drafted in by Racing Point for two Grand Prix last season, replacing Checo at Silverstone and Stroll at the Nüburgring after they tested positive for the virus.
“COVID didn’t exist at the time. So it was a bit different back then.” said Kvyat, talking about his short time at Maranello. “Now it’s become like you need to be here physically. Because you never know on a Thursday what happens. So it’s a bit more of a trackside role. They needed somebody experienced and strong to be able to jump in the car in case it’s needed. And we know in this period it’s taken a bit more seriously, this role.”
After being announced by Alpine earlier this year, Daniil is enjoying the change of environment with his favourite being able to work alongside two-time champion, Fernando Alonso. The two have been working together with engineers, and Kvyat loves to watch him operate
“Every session goes very smoothly, there are rarely any setbacks. And good spirits. I like this team, I think it has a huge potential. When I worked with Ferrari, I had a chance to look at Kimi and Sebastian at the time, both world champions. Fernando is a two-time F1 world champion with big experience, I like to just observe him, listen to what he likes to speak about with his engineers.
The Russian certainly seems happy at his new team, but there is no way for us to measure how well he is getting on or how likely it is for a come back from him. Sharing the reserve duties with the current Formula 2 championship leader Guanyu Zhou, it could be tough for Kvyat to edge his way in ahead of the promising young talent. The only thing on his mind at the moment is racing, and being the first person to cross the line.
“Of course, I am motivated. I’m mainly in this business for winning. So whatever I will do – whether it’s F1, whether it’s other categories – I will consider if there are short, medium or long-term opportunities for wins.”