Typically when an F1 team changes drivers, it waits until the end of the season – but not always. This time, Scuderia Toro Rosso is taking Daniil Kvyat out of the race seat, and giving it instead of Pierre Gasly.
The 21-year-old Frenchman is part of the Red Bull Junior Program, and has already proven himself in feeder series. He was runner up in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2014, won the GP2 title last year, and currently sits second (just half a point behind the leader) in Japan’s Super Formula championship.
“Scuderia Toro Rosso was established by Red Bull to bring youngsters from its Junior Programme into Formula 1 and that’s what we are doing by giving Pierre this chance,” said Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost. “For a variety of reasons, some of them due to technical problems, but others being mistakes of his own making, Daniil Kvyat has not really shown his true potential so far this year, which is why we are standing him down for the next races.”
That’s good news for Gasly, and potentially for Toro Rosso, but bad news for Kvyat. The 23-year-old Russian made his debut with the same team in 2014, and was called up to Red Bull Racing the following season, where he impressed with a second-place finish in Hungary, and another podium in China the following year. But he was subsequently bumped back down mid-season to STR.
Kvyat has since scored only a handful of points – just four this season, which hasn’t helped the team in its fight against Williams and Renault for fifth place in the constructors’ standings. “The driver switch gives us an opportunity to make a more informed decision regarding our 2018 driver choices,” said Tost. Carlos Sainz is going to Renault next season, and the team has yet to confirm either his replacement or who will fill the second seat.
Toro Rosso has switched drivers mid-season more than most teams. It gave Scott Speed the boot in 2007 to give Sebastian Vettel his debut, replaced Sebastien Bourdais with Jaime Alguersuari in 2009, and more recently swapped Kvyat and Max Verstappen back and forth (before today’s announcement).
The team hasn’t specified how many races Gasly will be given, but at the very least is likely to vacate his seat again for the US Grand Prix on October 22 to give Gasly a chance to seal the Super Formula title in the season-closing double-header at Suzuka that same weekend.