Daniil Kvyat may have been retained by Toro Rosso for another season, but his long-term future at Red Bull remains in doubt.
Catapulted into the flagship Red Bull outfit after just one year at Toro Rosso, Kvyat compared favourably against Ricciardo in 2015. While points are not always the best parameter to compare two drivers in the same team, the Russian proved himself worthy enough of his seat. Until Max Verstappen joined the party, that is. The Dutchman was the revelation of 2015, and pressure from various parties forced Red Bull to place him in the senior team midway through the 2016 season. Kvyat was the innocent party in this switchover, having being unceremoniously dropped to Toro Rosso.
The effects of such a move were evident immediately. The Russian quickly went on a downward spiral, with both his performance and morale hitting rock bottom. Five months after the announcement, Kvyat has been able to stand on his feet again. The 22-year-old showed his feisty self in Singapore, where he battled against Verstappen in inferior machinery to return to points. Perhaps it was this re-ignition that prompted Red Bull young driver programme chief Helmut Marko to retain him for another season. However, staying at Toro Rosso might do Kvyat more harm than wonders.
He should raise his performance level and try to beat Carlos Sainz Jr on a consistent basis. For that’s the only way he can have a long-term future in the Red Bull stable.
A seat at Red Bull is unlikely to become vacant in the near future, with the energy drinks brand keen on retaining both Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. Should one of those two drivers leave, it will be Carlos Sainz Jr who will be in a prime position to take their seat. And, one cannot dissipate the threat of Pierre Gasly yet. The GP2 championship protagonist was touted to replace Kvyat in 2017 and might well take his position midway through next year.
If Kvyat were to lose his position sometime in the future, he might as well lose it earlier on. Being in the Red Bull drivers programme is a big opportunity in itself, but it equally places huge pressure on an upcoming racer. One can argue that he would be better off being his own man in a rival outfit. But, now that he has been given another berth at Toro Rosso, perhaps he should raise his performance level and try to beat Carlos Sainz Jr on a consistent basis. For that’s the only way he can have a long-term future in the Red Bull stable.