Daniil Kvyat plans to use the Formula 1 summer to recover and refocus his campaign after a difficult first half of the 2016 season. It is very clear that he is struggling with confidence at a delicate moment when his career hangs in the balance.
Despite scoring a podium at the Chinese Grand Prix, the Russian driver was demoted from the Red Bull team back to his former squad Toro Rosso shortly before the Spanish Grand Prix, a race that his replacement, Max Verstappen, went on to win.
Kyvat has scored just two points since he re-joined Toro Rosso, compared to Carlos Sainz’s haul of 26, and has endured a number of lowly grid spots in that time and he had huge crash in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.
The 22-year-old finished 15th in last weekend’s German Grand Prix and he explained afterwards how both he and Toro Rosso need to come back after the August break in better form.
He said: “We now need to see where we can improve, try and maximise our strong points and come back stronger for the second part of the season. I will now use the summer break to recharge my batteries and come back as fresh as possible for the next races.”
Kyvat’s qualifying for the race in Germany last weekend was not encouraging as he lined up 18th, three places and 0.5s behind Sainz, which would have been five if not for the 21-year-old’s grid penalty for impeding Felipe Massa.
After that performance, Kyvat was decidedly bleak in his assessment of his own F1 future.
He said: “It’s looking very bad now, and if it continues like this then I don’t think anything bright is ahead. I just need to get things going, and once I do that, then it will be fine.
“It’s not like I’m having the most pleasant time in the world, it’s not easy, but it’s not an excuse. Everyone has hard times. If you’re good, you come out of it, if you’re not good enough, you just die.”
Another worry for Kvyat beyond is own form are the GP2 results of Red Bull’s most senior junior driver, Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman has scored two feature race wins in the last three meetings of F1’s feeder series and he put in an eye-catching performance to steal third place on the line in last weekend’s main GP2 race after a poor start, although he was later disqualified for continuing to race after his cockpit fire extinguisher and gone off.
Gasly did go through a barren spell of race victories before reigniting his GP2 championship charge at Silverstone, but Red Bull has a history of promoting its junior drivers mid-way through an F1 season in place of racers that it feels are not delivering. Gasly also tested the RB12 at the recent two-day test that followed the British Grand Prix.
Back in 2009, Jaime Alguersuari was parachuted in from Formula Renault 3.5 to replace Sébastien Bourdais, and it’s not inconceivable that Red Bull could do something similar with Gasly. It is possible the team could put the 20-year-old at Toro Rosso for the races between Singapore and Brazil before slotting him back into GP2 to contest the final round at Abu Dhabi, a move that Alexander Rossi and Manor arranged in 2015.
One thing that will count in Kvyat’s favour is his strong performance at Hockenheim relative to Sainz, as he delivered pace similar to the Spaniard during the race and finished just one spot behind him.
The 2015 Ferrari engine that Toro Rosso is using is also receiving no upgrades, and that is an important factor that should be noted in both of the performances of the drivers at the Italian team.
Finally, Red Bull does appear to lack strength in depth in its junior programme to a certain extent for the first time in a number of years. Below Gasly, Sérgio Sette Câmara and Niko Kariracing are racing in European Formula 3, while Luis Leeds and Richard Verschoor are competing at Formula 4 level.
If Kvyat is given a chance to show what he can do when F1 returns after the summer break, he needs to deliver fast to save his career in the championship beyond this season.
Do you think Red Bull will keep Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso for the rest of 2016? How would you rate the Russian’s performances in the first half of the season? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.