Red Bull young driver and 2016 F2 champion Pierre Gasly will replace Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso for the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend and will carry on to occupy the seat for an unspecified number of races.
Gasly has been hotly tipped as the driver most likely to take up the seat left vacated by Carlos Sainz as he will move to Renault for next season. Though Toro Rosso have taken the opportunity to use the upcoming races to evaluate Gasly before committing to him fully to a full race season. Seeing as he has not driven this years Toro Rosso in any of the young driver days or test days for the team.
The team have confirmed that Gasly will definitely race in Malaysia, though reports are suggesting he will likely also replace Kvyat for the Japanese Grand Prix as well.
Gasly is currently in a title contending position in the Japanese Super Formula series. The series finale at Suzuka on October the 22nd clashes with the US Grand Prix in Austin at that time, meaning it’s likely that Kvyat will return to his car for that weekend. However after this, there will be no more clashes. Meaning Gasly can once again take over driving duties at Toro Rosso from the Mexican Grand Prix onwards.
“Scuderia Toro Rosso was established by Red Bull to bring youngsters from its Junior Programme into Formula 1 and that’s what we are doing by giving Pierre this chance,” said team boss Franz Tost when asked about the promotion of Gasly. “He is the next in line at Red Bull for this opportunity and he has shown that he deserves it, having taken the 2016 GP2 title and this year being very competitive in the Super Formula series in Japan. He really has a valid chance of winning the title, as he is only half a point behind the leader.”
“The driver switch gives us an opportunity to make a more informed decision regarding our 2018 driver choices. 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. This will give us the opportunity to evaluate Pierre on track during a proper race weekend.”
This season had not gone well for Kvyat for a multitude of reasons including mechanical and personal mistakes. He has scored on just four occasions out of fourteen so far this season, with his last points finish at the Spanish Grand Prix in May. Sainz meanwhile has contributed over 90% of the teams total points in the 2017 constructors championship. At the last Grand Prix in Singapore Kvyat crashed out while his team mate Sainz went on to finish a career best fourth. Since his return to Toro Rosso, Kvyat has managed to accumulate more penalty points on his licence than he has world championship points. He is only two points away from a one race band. With his next set of points due to come off his licence at the US Grand Prix in October.
It has not helped that since his demotion to Toro Rosso last year many have seen Kvyat as “damaged goods.” Since his return to Toro Rosso rumours have been flying about how long his career would last, with suggestions even being made that Gasly was replacing him for the Singapore Grand Prix onwards in 2016. These rumours proved to be just rumours in the end, but many have felt that his seat has been under pressure since then.
It is widely expected that Kvyat will likely be retained alongside Gasly for Toro Rosso’s 2018 season, but this is all dependent on Honda not wanting to put one of their own drivers in the car alongside Gasly. Honda currently are lined to F2 race winner Nobuharu Matsushita, who tested for Sauber at the Budapest test this season.
The Red Bull Young Driver Program is known for producing some of the most talented young drivers on the grid. Boasting multiple race winner Daniel Ricciardo, teenage sensation Max Verstappen, and of course four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel among its alumni. But for all its success stories the program is also ruthless. If a driver doesn’t perform as well as expected in the junior series or at Toro Rosso they are simply dropped from the program. Many of these drivers do not drive in a full time seat in Formula 1 again after being dropped. As a result of the demotion and lack of faith put into him by the management at Toro Rosso and the Red Bull Young Driver Program, Kvyat’s career in Formula 1 looks to be at a critical point. He will need to impress the other teams on the grid as well as Toro Rosso if he wishes to stay in the sport, and not become yet another scalp in the Red Bull Young Driver Program.
Who has scored highest % of teams’ points?
Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, 100%
Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 92.3%
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 81%
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 70.4%
Romain Grosjean, Haas, 70.3%
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 63%
Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 58.8%
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 55.4%
Sergio Perez, Force India, 54.8%
Felipe Massa, Williams, 52.5%
Feature Image Credit: Scuderia Toro Rosso Press Release.