The second Russian to race in Formula 1 (after Vitaly Petrov), the personable Daniil Kvyat enjoyed an impressive first season as a Grand Prix driver. Named as 2014 rookie of the year by the FIA, his reward was promotion to Red Bull Racing as Sebastian Vettel’s replacement. However, a couple of podium finishes during the next 18 months were not enough to prevent him from being cast aside in favour of even younger talent. However, he made the most of a surprise recall to Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2019.
Karting and early career
Kvyat finished third in the 2009 European Championship for KF3 karts when beaten by McLaren protégé Nyck de Vries and Carlos Sainz Jr at Zuera in Spain. The 15 year old graduated to Formula BMW with EuroInternational a year later and won a couple of Pacific Championship races at Sepang. Already supported by Red Bull, he also finished tenth in that year’s European series after coming second in the final round at Monza.
He began 2011 by finishing fifth in New Zealand’s off-season Toyota Racing Series before spending the summer with Koiranen Motorsport’s Formula Renault 2.0 outfit. The Russian scored a total of nine race wins that year to clinch third in the Eurocup and finish as runner-up to Sainz in the North European Cup.
Kvyat remained with Koiranen for 2012 and ran highly-rated Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne close for the Eurocup. He won seven times but was unable to score the third place finish he required to snatch the title at the final round. Some consolation came in the ALPS series when another seven victories delivered a narrow championship success.
Red Bull placed Kvyat with MW Arden’s GP3 team in 2013. A regular in the points from round three, he won late-season races at Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and Abu Dhabi to clinch the championship. He also won a European Formula 3 race at Zandvoort while guesting in Carlin’s Dallara F312-Volkswagen and completed the season by testing a Toro Rosso STR8-Ferrari during the Friday of the United States and Brazilian GP weekends.
Formula 1 with Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo moved from Toro Rosso to Red Bull in 2014 and António Félix da Costa was expected to be named as the new STR driver. So it was a surprise when Kvyat was announced as Jean-Eric Vergne’s team-mate for the coming season. Eighth on the grid for his debut in Australia, the youngster immediately impressed by finishing ninth. He matched that result twice more but it was in qualifying that he really shone. He started fifth in Russia and Abu Dhabi to emphasise his natural speed and promise and was named F1 Rookie of the Year by the FIA.
When Sebastian Vettel made the surprise announcement that he was moving to Ferrari in 2015, it was Kvyat who was drafted into the Red Bull line-up as his replacement. The team struggled with underpowered Renault engines and Kvyat was initially criticised by consultant Dr Helmut Marko after a difficult start to life in the senior squad. However, his form soon improved with second in Hungary the best of a string of points scores. He qualified fourth in Singapore, USA and Mexico and ended the campaign seventh overall, ahead of team-mate Ricciardo.
Return to Toro Rosso
Kvyat remained with Red Bull for 2016 but struggled to maintain that form at the start of the season. He did finish third in China after angering Vettel with an aggressive move at the start and he drew further criticism when he hit the German’s Ferrari twice on the opening lap in Russia. That was Kvyat’s last race with Red Bull for he was promptly demoted to Toro Rosso to make way for Max Verstappen. Kvyat struggled to come to terms with the harsh realities of F1 and suffered an inconsistent and disappointing remaining 17 races during which the four points he scored compared unfavourably with team-mate Carlos Sainz’s tally of 42.
His inconsistent form for Toro Rosso continued in 2017 although he scored a couple of ninth-place finishes and qualified eighth in Italy. However, Kvyat made too many mistakes and cut an increasingly frustrated figure. Eased aside after crashing in Singapore, he was 10th on a one-off comeback in the United States GP following Sainz’s move to Renault and with newcomer Pierre Gasly committed to Japanese Super Formula.
Formula 1 return
Temporarily dropped from the Red Bull driver programme, Kvyat spent 2018 as Ferrari’s development driver before a surprise second return to Toro Rosso in 2019. Used as a benchmark for newcomer Alexander Albon and then Gasly, Kvyat enjoyed an initially strong return. Still only 25-years-old, Kvyat’s ten points scoring drives included finishing third in Germany, Toro Rosso’s first podium for 11 years. His 2020 season didn’t live up to the same heights. He recorded a season best finish of fourth at the Emilia Romagna GP and finished the season 14th in the championship.
Kvyat was dropped for 2021 by AlphaTauri in favour of Yuki Tsunoda. The Russian found another F1 lifeline in the form of a test and reserve driver role with Alpine for the 2021 season.