Toro Rosso have announced that 19-year-old Russian Daniil Kvyat will replace Red Bull-bound Daniel Ricciardo for 2014.
The news, coming just days after it emerged the team attempted to poach McLaren-linked Stoffel Vandoorne for the drive, will come as a bitter blow for Antonio Felix da Costa.
The Portuguese had long been seen as the favourite for the seat, but his results in Formula Renault 3.5 (FR3.5) have been mixed this year. He finished third in the series, behind the McLaren-linked duo of Kevin Magnussen and Vandoorne.
Sky Sports pundit Martin Brundle reacted to the news on Twitter:
Great news for Kyviat to get Toro Rosso drive, should be exciting to watch for many reasons. Sad for Da Costa, saw real star quality there— Martin Brundle (@MBrundleF1) October 21, 2013
Kvyat will take on the role of de facto No. 2 driver, alongside current Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne.
In a press release on the team's website, team principle Franz Tost said:
We are pleased to continue our policy of bringing on drivers from the Red Bull Junior Programme. Daniil is a very talented driver, which can be seen from his results in all the junior categories. He was a very successful kart driver and, in 2012, he took the Formula Renault 2.0 Championship title with seven wins.
This year, he competed in six rounds of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, taking 1 win, 5 poles and 5 podiums. In addition to this, he is still in a position to win the GP3 Championship, as he is only seven points behind the leader. He impressed our team with a strong performance and very informative technical feedback at the young driver test in Silverstone.
This suggests that the basic qualities from which he can progress are all in place. Daniil can be sure that we will use all our experience of training youngsters to give him the best possible start to his Formula 1 career.
It seems odd that Kvyat's outing in the young driver test at Silverstone earlier this year is called "impressive," given that he only managed 16 laps before beaching it in the gravel.
Tost's words about the rest of his season ring more true—Kvyat has had a good year. The Italian-based youngster has performed admirably in his rookie season in GP3, comprehensively outpacing teammates Carlos Sainz and Robert Vișoiu.
His visits to F3 as a guest driver have also been impressive.
Even so, he was not expected to make the step up so soon, and the decision will still be seen as a risk. Drivers normally move into F1 after at least one season in one of the top feeder series—GP2 or FR3.5. Kvyat has just one year in the tier below that.
Who would you have picked?
In an ideal world, one gets the impression the team would have preferred to give him an extra year or two to learn his trade.
But with Felix da Costa disappointing (or perhaps upsetting the wrong people) and Vandoorne turning them down, they had to delve deeper into their talent pool than they would have wished.
Kvyat may now drive for Toro Rosso in some Friday practice sessions before the end of the year to aid his transition.
However much talent he has, the learning curve will be steep indeed.