French driver Pierre Gasly will make his Formula 1 debut at the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend after being drafted in by the Toro Rosso team in place of Daniil Kvyat, as Red Bull’s patience with the Russian has finally run out
The Red Bull-owned team said the switch, for an unspecified number of races, “gives us an opportunity to make a more informed decision regarding our 2018 driver choices”.
“This is not a case of goodbye for our Daniil, as he still remains part of the Red Bull Family,” the team added in a statement, although the future does not look bright for the Russian.
Gasly, the 2016 GP2 champion who is currently racing in Japan’s Super Formula series, is the leading contender to replace Carlos Sainz when the Spaniard leaves Toro Rosso on loan to Renault next season.
Kvyat could be retained but has scored only four points in 14 races compared to Sainz’s 48, with the team locked in a tight midfield battle. They are sixth overall, seven points behind Williams and 10 ahead of Renault.
Renault had hoped to secure Sainz before the end of the season but Tuesday’s move indicates the departing Jolyon Palmer will now see out 2017 in that seat.
Toro Rosso, who are switching from Renault to Honda engines next year, can ill-afford to lose Sainz with six races remaining.
Gasly is already under contract to Red Bull who use Toro Rosso as a feeder outfit for their main factory team. Japan follows immediately after Malaysia and is familiar territory for the 21-year-old.
He may miss the United States Grand Prix on 22 October, however, since that clashes with the final round of the Super Formula championship at Suzuka, where he has a good chance of winning the title for Honda
“He [Gasly] is the next in line at Red Bull for this opportunity and he has shown that he deserves it,” team boss Franz Tost said.
Kvyat has already been through the process, moving up to Red Bull Racing in 2015 and suffering a demotion last year when he swapped places with Dutch teenager Max Verstappen.
“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,” Tost said. “This will give us the opportunity to evaluate Pierre on track during a proper race weekend.”
Gasly’s arrival means France will have three drivers in Sunday’s race at Sepang, the newcomer joining compatriots Romain Grosjean (Haas) and Esteban Ocon (Force India).
Official Toro Rosso Statement
For the next Grands Prix, Pierre Gasly will be driving for Scuderia Toro Rosso, standing in for Daniil Kvyat, alongside Carlos Sainz.
Gasly, one of the Red Bull Junior Programme drivers, has been racing in Japan this year in the Super Formula category. The 2016 GP2 Champion finished second in last Sunday’s race, having won the two previous rounds. The 21 year old will therefore get his chance to prove himself in F1. This is not a case of goodbye for our Daniil, as he still remains part of the Red Bull Family.
Franz Tost: “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. He is the next in line at Red Bull for this opportunity and he has shown that he deserves it, having taken the 2016 GP2 title and this year being very competitive in the Super Formula series in Japan. He really has a valid chance of winning the title, as he is only half a point behind the leader. The driver switch gives us an opportunity to make a more informed decision regarding our 2018 driver choices.”
“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. This will give us the opportunity to evaluate Pierre on track during a proper race weekend.”
Pierre Gasly: “I would like to thank everyone who has helped me get this chance in my motor racing career and specifically, Red Bull, Dr. Helmut Marko and Scuderia Toro Rosso…this is a great opportunity for me. I feel as ready as I can be, having had to be prepared for anything in my role as Red Bull Racing’s third driver this year. I will do my best to perform well with Scuderia Toro Rosso during these coming races.”
Big Question: Have Toro Rosso made the right call to ditch Daniil and promote Pierre at this point of the season?