Background: First double swap since 1994
14 October 2017 – Next weekend's United States Grand Prix will feature an unusual occurrence, with a Formula 1 team, in this case Toro Rosso, undergoing a complete driver change mid-season, as GPUpdate.net explains.
It is not unusual for a Formula 1 team to change drivers during the course of a campaign, with form, budget and injury or illness sometimes prompting a switch.
It happened, for example, in Hungary, when an unwell Felipe Massa was forced onto the sidelines, and replaced by Paul di Resta at Williams.
However, not since 1994 has a team entered successive weekends within the same campaign with an entirely different driver pairing.
Toro Rosso has been forced into the change due to an unusual set of circumstances that surely no-one could have foreseen.
Kvyat continued to struggle, Sainz Jr. impressed once more, while elsewhere on the grid, Jolyon Palmer's plateauing form and McLaren-Honda's malaise was rumbling on.
McLaren signalled its intentions to split from Honda, but Formula 1 chiefs and the manufacturer itself wanted to ensure the company remained in the sport, and re-opened Toro Rosso talks.
Renault, faced with losing Toro Rosso but gaining McLaren, was also on the search for a 2018 driver, and, amid the engine machinations, Sainz Jr. became available.
When the dominoes fell in Singapore, Renault confirmed Sainz Jr. for 2018, and rumours surfaced that the Spaniard could jump into the R.S.17 for the following race in Malaysia.
However, Palmer held firm, and thus stayed in the car, fuelled by placing sixth around the streets of Marina Bay, comfortably his best result in the sport.
Gasly, who went on to claim the GP2 title, was placed at the Honda-powered Mugen outfit in Super Formula, and hit form mid-season, triumphing at Motegi and Autopolis, before placing second at Sugo.
Toro Rosso remained eager to evaluate Gasly and announced that he would make his Formula 1 debut in Malaysia, with the out-of-form Kvyat benched.
Gasly duly remained in the car for Japan, but behind-the-scenes negotiations were ongoing on the other side of the garage.
On Saturday evening at Suzuka, Palmer confirmed that he had reached an agreement with Renault to depart the team after Sunday's race. Moments later, Renault announced that Sainz Jr. would race for the team for the remaining four events, starting in the United States, ahead of his 2018 drive, on loan from Red Bull.
Toro Rosso duly confirmed that Gasly and Kvyat would form its line-up in Austin, but this was done in haste.
Therefore, Gasly faced the prospect of giving up his and Honda's title chance, but with Sainz Jr. Renault-bound, it had no-one to partner Kvyat – the driver unwanted just a few weeks ago.
Consequently, former protégé Brendon Hartley – who retained Red Bull through his successful WEC spell – will climb into the STR12 at the Circuit of the Americas.
From Sainz Jr./Gasly to Kvyat/Hartley – it marks a completely changed in-season pairing for a team for the first time in 23 years.
In the tumultuous 1994 season, the ailing Lotus team (the proper operation, not the hashed 2010-rebirth or 2012/13 sponsorship gimmick) fielded six different drivers.
In Portugal, the 13th round of the campaign, Lotus fielded Johnny Herbert and Philippe Adams; after the race, Herbert was 'acquired' by Benetton, and placed at Ligier for the next round at Jerez, ahead of his move to Benetton for the final two rounds and 1995 campaign.
Alessandro Zanardi replaced Herbert, while in turn, Adams was ditched in favour of Éric Bernard, whose appearance for Lotus turned out to be his last in Formula 1. Nonetheless, a Herbert/Adams pairing was succeeded by Zanardi/Bernard, an in-season overhaul that would not be repeated for over two decades.