Is Daniil Kvyat Ready to Drive for Red Bull in 2015 Formula 1 Season?

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2014

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 05: Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso and Russia ahead of the British F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2014 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
Peter Fox/Getty Images

As impressive as Daniil Kvyat's debut Formula One campaign was, and as great as he could go on to become, there is one significant detail that concerns his move to Red Bull for 2015.

If Sebastian Vettel had made his decision to join Ferrari two months earlier than he did—at the beginning of the summer break in August, as opposed to the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix in early October—Kvyat, in all likelihood, would have remained at Toro Rosso for a second season.

And the honour of replacing Vettel would probably have gone to Jean-Eric Vergne instead.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 27:  (L-R) Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia Toro Rosso and Jean-Eric Vergne of France and Scuderia Toro Rosso talk in the paddock during previews to the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 27, 2
Peter Fox/Getty Images

Vergne, having served an apprenticeship at Toro Rosso since 2012—when he proved to be a match for Daniel Ricciardo, the darling of 2014—was supposedly the next cab off the rank for Red Bull.

But the Frenchman's hopes of taking the step up were terminally wounded when, in mid-August, Toro Rosso announced that he would be replaced by Max Verstappen, the teenager, in 2015.

Jean-Eric Vergne @JeanEricVergne

Toro Rosso is a good school. I learnt a lot. Now focussed on a great end of season. I'm already working for 2015. Still a lot to show in F1

Having been deemed not good enough for Red Bull's B-team, it would have been utterly ridiculous if the organisation had offered Vergne a seat with the four-time constructors' champions—which is why Kvyat's promotion was revealed in the exact statement that confirmed Vettel's departure.

Daniil Kvyat @kvyatofficial

I'm looking massively forward to the next season with @redbullracing !

With Vergne out of contention and team principal Christian Horner telling Autosport's Jonathan Noble of Red Bull's unflinching desire to "grow our own talent" rather than chase established superstars, Kvyat was the beneficiary of unforeseen circumstances.

It would not be entirely unfair to suggest that the Russian earned the seat by default.

But just as the idea of courting the likes of Fernando Alonso is at odds with Red Bull's ideology, employing drivers with question marks over their heads is also a big no-no at the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

Recent history has shown that Red Bull only nab drivers from their Toro Rosso training ground when the youngsters are absolutely ready to make the jump.

Vettel's victory in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, for instance, served as confirmation that the German was ready to step up at the end of his first full season in F1.

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 14:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Scuderia Toro Rosso celebrates on the podium after winning the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on September 14, 2008 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/G
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Although the team's decision to promote him in place of the retiring David Coulthard was taken prior to his Monza win, results such as a fourth-place finish in his seventh race, the 2007 Chinese GP, as well as a good run in Japan that season, had suggested that Red Bull had a future star in their ranks.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo—like most other Toro Rosso drivers—was subjected to a maximum of three seasons of close inspection before a decision was made on his future.

The Australian, driving inadequate machinery, was never going to find himself in a position to repeat Vettel's '08 heroics, but a number of outstanding qualifying performances—sixth at Bahrain 2012, seventh at China 2013—gave the team reason to believe that he, not Vergne, was worthy of inheriting Mark Webber's seat.

Despite emulating Vettel by becoming the youngest-ever driver to score points on his grand prix debut and securing a superb fifth place in qualifying in Russia, have Red Bull seen enough of Kvyat to be truly certain that he is ready to compete at the front of the Formula One grid?

You would suspect not, which makes Kvyat's signing the team's riskiest so far and could present a fascinating challenge for the Red Bull hierarchy.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 11:  Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia Toro Rosso waves to the crowd in Parc Ferme after qualifying ahead of the Russian Formula One Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom on October 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Gett
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Whenever a Toro Rosso driver underwhelms, or fails to live up to expectations, the Faenza-based team rarely hesitates in showing them the exit door.

It has become the accepted way of doing things within Red Bull's young driver program, with the likes of Vitantonio Liuzzi, Scott Speed, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi and now Vergne dumped without a second thought.

VALENCIA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 01:  Jaime Alguersuari (L) of Spain and Sebastien Buemi (R) of Switzerland attend the unveiling of the new Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6 at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit on February 1, 2011 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Gett
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Never before, though, has a driver made his way to the summit of the Red Bull pyramid only then to struggle.

And should Kvyat—despite his obvious speed and his Kimi Raikkonen-esque straightforwardness—for whatever reason encounter difficulties in his adjustment to life at a front-running outfit, would Horner and Dr. Helmut Marko afford Kvyat enough time to find his feet?

Or would they continue with the trial-and-error process that, although brutal, has served the company handsomely in recent years and plonk the next one in the queue into a Red Bull chassis, or even attract a high-profile name from outside the bubble as a stopgap? 

Due to the instant success of Vettel and Ricciardo, it is now presumed that Red Bull's newcomers will exceed expectations and thrive in a controlled, world championship-winning environment.

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 05:  (EDITORS NOTE: The colour version of this image is not available) Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia Toro Rosso changes into his race gear during Practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on Septembe
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

There is every chance that Kvyat, in 2015 and beyond, will follow in their footsteps and live up to the hype.

But if the 20-year-old stumbles and staggers on the road his predecessors once danced along, it could spark an overhaul of Red Bull's F1 philosophy.


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