Daniil Kvyat will complete a surprise return to Formula 1 in 2019, with Toro Rosso confirming the signing of the Russian for a third spell at the team.
Kvyat made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2014 before being promoted to the Red Bull senior team as Ferrari-bound Sebastian Vettel’s replacement for the following season.
Despite outscoring teammate Daniel Ricciardo and claiming a maiden podium during his first year at Red Bull, Kvyat was demoted from the Milton Keynes outfit just four races into 2016 to pave the way for emerging talent Max Verstappen in a sensational mid-season seat swap.
A run of poor results on his return to Toro Rosso resulted in him losing his drive and being dropped from the Red Bull driver programme altogether before the end of the 2017 campaign. Kvyat’s last appearance for the Faenza squad came at the 2017 United States Grand Prix, where he finished 10th to score Toro Rosso’s only point during the last six races of the season.
— Toro Rosso (@ToroRosso) September 29, 2018
Following his departure, the 24-year-old was signed by Ferrari in a development role to carry out simulator and factory work during race weekends throughout 2018 – with his hopes of landing a full-time seat in the sport appearing bleak.
But Ricciardo’s shock decision to quit Red Bull in favour of a move to Renault for 2019 set off a domino effect that ultimately opened the door for Kvyat’s return. Red Bull subsequently promoted junior and current Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly to race alongside Verstappen next season and facing a lack of options in its junior pool, Kvyat emerged as a prime contender to fill the seat vacated by Gasly.
Kvyat said he feels “stronger and better prepared” as a driver and never gave up on his hope of returning to F1.
“First of all, I would like to thank Red Bull and Toro Rosso for giving me this opportunity to race in Formula 1 again and I am particularly pleased to be returning to a team I know very well,” Kvyat commented.
“Toro Rosso has always made me feel at home and I’m sure it will still be the same next season. I would also like to thank Ferrari for trusting my driving skills which allowed me to stay connected to F1 as their development driver.
“Even if my duties were primarily simulator based, I’ve learnt a lot, and I now feel stronger and better prepared than when I left Toro Rosso.
“I never gave up hope of racing again, I am still young and I have kept in good shape to always be prepared in case another opportunity presented itself. I will give my best to deliver what the team expects from me and I can’t wait for everything to start again.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner confirmed Kvyat was on Toro Rosso’s list of potential candidates for 2019 and the move accelerated following discussions between Ferrari and Red Bull hierarchy during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend in August. It is understood a deal was agreed and signed at the next race in Monza.
Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost reckons the best is yet to come from Kvyat in F1.
“I believe he deserves another chance in Formula 1,” Tost said. “Daniil is a high skilled driver with fantastic natural speed, which he has proven several times in his career.
“There were some difficult situations he had to face in the past, but I’m convinced that having had time to mature as a person away from the races will help him show his undeniable capabilities on track.
“We’ll push very hard to provide him with a good package, and I feel the best is yet to come from his side. That’s why we are happy to welcome him back to our team, to start a successful season together.”
It remains to be seen who will race alongside Kvyat at Toro Rosso next year, with Brendon Hartley’s future uncertain. After being cut from the Red Bull programme back in 2010, the Kiwi was handed another chance to impress as he joined Toro Rosso towards the end of last season, though the two-time World Endurance Champion has struggled to match Gasly’s impressive performances in 2018.
Ousted McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne and former Manor and Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein are two names to be linked, though Vandoorne conceded his chances of continuing in F1 next year are almost at “zero percent”, while Wehrlein has been testing Formula E machinery with Mahindra following his release from the Mercedes junior programme earlier this month.
Red Bull is keen to promote from within its own stable but faces a dilemma given its leading starlet Dan Ticktum does not currently hold enough Superlicence points to qualify for an F1 seat in 2019. He will still fall short even if he overturns a large points deficit to beat Mick Schumacher to this year’s European Formula 3 crown.
Red Bull reserve driver Sebastien Buemi was linked with a return to the team he made his F1 debut with, but he has since been confirmed to be staying in Formula E with Nissan alongside another previous outside contender in the shape of Formula 2 frontrunner Alexander Albon.