Opinion: Kvyat can take motivation from Hartley

Opinion: Kvyat can take motivation from Hartley

4 November 2017 – The transient nature of Formula 1 means that Daniil Kvyat has already become a footnote to the 2017 campaign, his presence almost forgotten, but as GPUpdate.net explains, he can take solace from the man now piloting his car, and tipped for a full-time 2018 seat.

If there is any consolation for Kvyat, it is that he replaced a World Champion at Red Bull, was in turn ousted by a driver widely tipped to re-write the Formula 1 record books, and has had his Toro Rosso seat nabbed by a World Champion sportscar racer and Le Mans victor. Even so, the his trials and tribulations of his journey have sometimes been a difficult watch, even in the cut-throat environment of Formula 1, where vultures circle at every corner.

Kvyat's single-seater career has been funded by Red Bull, from Formula BMW through to Formula 1, and this, of course, must be noted. But if anything, it is positive that Kvyat has finally been put out of his misery by the drinks company, having looked like the spare part ever since his early 2016 demotion from the seniors to the juniors. Both Carlos Sainz Jr. and Kvyat received a kicking by Max Verstappen's switch, but it was the Spaniard who went up a gear, while Kvyat wallowed in a stupor, could not deliver the results, and was always on borrowed time, in spite of the defiant manner in which he carried himself. His recall for Austin was almost cruel in its futility, though at least he bowed out with a point.

The limited seats, array of young talent, and relatively longevity of careers means that it can be difficult for dispensed Formula 1 driver to find a way back in, while the phrase oft trotted out by Formula 1 bods – along the lines of 'he can go to sportscars' is no longer the simple transition that it once was. Those seats are hotly contested.

Yet Kvyat can take solace from the driver now racing his STR12 in Formula 1 (or the other one, amid the confusion over specific entries).

Brendon Hartley was snapped up by Red Bull in the mid-2000s during its explosion of members, as the company sought to unearth the best young talents. Hartley was a contemporary of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne but whereas the latter two jostled for hierarchy, Hartley gradually slipped down the order and was dropped mid-2010.

Now, seven years later, and via a litany of sportscar victories and titles, he is in Formula 1 with Toro Rosso, aged 27, and surely on the brink of a full-time 2018 seat.

"What is fantastic about the Brendon story is, that is a guy who started off life on the junior programme," explains Red Bull chief Christian Horner.

"He got dropped early on in his career from the junior programme. There was no remorse, there was no "poor me" or "haven't I been badly treated".

"At the time he thanked Red Bull for the opportunity and endeavoured to stay in touch.

"At that point he had nothing else to race. He went back to racing Minis, historic Formula 1 cars, anything he could get his hands on he raced.

"He showed a passion and a commitment to keep doing what he believed in himself as a race car driver.

"He renewed his association with Red Bull when he became a sportscar driver with Porsche, and became a World Champion, and again is competing for that World Championship again this year.

"And I think it's testimony to him, his determination and tenacity, and skill and talent that he has got himself back into a position where he has been selected to be in the Toro Rosso car for the races that he is doing."

Horner is not wrong about Hartley. Such is his versatility and enthusiasm to race that, even with a Porsche WEC deal (prior to its exit), he this year won the Dubai 24 Hours and turned his hand to Sebring. The additional experience in other categories, greater maturity, and years spent in a professional environment with Porsche mean Hartley has grown into the driver Red Bull identified as a talented youngster with potential a decade ago.

Drivers develop at different rates and one rule which applies to one may not be relevant for someone else. The past 18 months in Formula 1 have been largely awful for Kvyat, and he has rightly been criticised for mistakes and missed opportunities, though the tendency in some quarters to portray him as a useless liability does discredit to his innate ability, which still came through in all-too-brief flashes in 2017.

Kvyat is a GP3 champion, two-time F1 podium finisher and still just 23. Toro Rosso and Red Bull must also bear some responsibility for contributing to his downward spiral, through reliability issues and its man management of the Russian, with the mental side of sport still grossly underestimated. On a human level, one can only hope Kvyat has received any help he may require. 

Formula 1 may currently be a closed door – and it might never re-open, for Kvyat has already received a rare second chance – but the achievements of other dropped Red Bull members, and the humility which Hartley displayed when he was rejected, demonstrate that there is still the potential for Kvyat to embark on a lengthy career in motorsport.

You cannot speed up a slow driver, but a rapid one can always be refined – and Kvyat is in the latter camp. There is still a future out there for him – Hartley is proof of that.

Written by: Phillip Horton

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