The sister team of Red Bull Racing rebranded itself as AlphaTauri for 2020 and beyond - having previously been known as Toro Rosso. The Italian manufacture has just enjoyed their greatest year of success in Formula One. Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, either jointly or singularly finished in the top ten in 15 of the 17 races of a condensed 2020 F1 Season. A reason to celebrate indeed as should have been the end of tenure for their departing driver Daniil Kvyat. However, this is the Red Bull Driver Program and sadly that is not their style.
AlphaTauri scored 107 points to finish seventh in the F1 Constructors’ World Championship. Due to the fact a 21-race season in 2019 brought 85 points to AlphaTauri, 2020 showed a marked improvement and not just a new name. Unfortunately, what has not improved, is the way that the Red Bull Program treats its drivers when it comes to them losing their seat in the pinnacle of motorsport. Today we reflect on how Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri tenure came to an end and why the Russian driver deserved so much more over the last fortnight.
Daniil Kvyat being replaced by Yuki Tsunoda for the 2021 F1 Season at AlphaTauri was the worst kept secret in Formula One and the question has to be asked as to why Daniil Kvyat was not treated to the same fanfare as other departing drivers.
Carlos Sainz, Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, whether leaving the team or leaving the sport, had ample photo opportunities and gifts to thank them for their hard work and service.
Carlos Sainz received a signed MCL35 sidepod presented to him by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown; Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen each got a steering wheel Guenther Steiner to take home as their souvenir from Haas and Sebastian Vettel received an oversized trophy and numerous ovations from Scuderia Ferrari. As for Daniel Ricciardo, the whole Renault team was pictured wearing a mask which featured the lower half of the much-loved Aussie’s face in a cartoon style showing the beaming smile of the Perth native. Fitting sendoffs all round.
For Daniil Kvyat though, there appeared to be nothing and all of this because when night fell in Abu Dhabi, Daniil Kvyat was still an AlphaTauri driver.
After the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Daniil Kvyat was asked by motorsport.com if he thought he had made his last appearance:
“I'll try to come back, because I feel like in the right ambience with the right people around me in the right car, which I like, I can be extremely competitive, and I still feel like I have a lot to give.” Kvyat said at the time.
“I am grateful of course for everything, for all these years. It was great, great stint, these last two years with the team. That is fantastic. They are amazing.”
“But it's a shame that I am not even able to say if I'm there or not next year.”
Shameful is indeed how the treatment of Daniil Kvyat could be summarised.
Daniil Kvyat has triumphed over adversity so many times in his F1 career and his 2019 3rd place achieved at rain hit Hockenheim is in the record books and will live long in the memory. However, once Pierre Gasly was victorious in Italy this season at the Italian GP, anything else Kvyat did would pale in comparison.
For the man who made his debut with Toro Rosso in 2014, he has been pragmatic over his future when asked if his Red Bull journey had reached its end:
“You can never say never...Life teaches you to never say never to anything. But of course, I think we've been on off quite a long time now. I had a contract for these two years. That was the deal. That's it. And for the rest, ask Helmut [Marko].”
Once again, as all in the paddock and beyond know, Dr Helmut Marko would always have the final say. But surely he could have made that announcement before the final race of the season especially seeing how the news of Yuki Tsunoda had been widely assumed for many weeks (if not months) already.
“I’m open to many ideas, I don't say no to anything right now,” Kvyat said. “Next year, I think racing-wise, perhaps I would like a year off. But we will see. If something really extremely good will come up, of course I'll think about saying yes. Otherwise, we'll try to focus us to come back to come back in Formula 1 in 2022.”
Daniil Kvyat never did get the fanfare, ovations and photo opportunities his tenure deserved. One can hope that something happened behind the scenes but who can know for sure. What we do know, is that following the news of Yuki Tsunoda replacing Daniil Kvyat, social media was the way the team made their thanks known.
Honda Racing F1: From all of us at Honda, thank you @danydk1. Together we achieved things that we could only dream of and having you as part of our family and history has been an absolute pleasure. Rock on DK.
To which Daniil Kvyat replied: Thank you guys! It’s been a true pleasure pushing your engine to the limit # HondaPower
AlphaTauri Team Principal Franz Tost: “As Yuki Tsunoda will drive for us next year, we say goodbye to @Danydk1, I want to thank Daniil very much for his input to the team, especially this year, he helped a lot with his experience to set up and improve the performance of the car.”
Daniil Kvyat’s reply read: Thank you guys for all these years together! Every one of you will have a special place in my heart.
As it says on the official website of AlphaTauri, 2020 brought the team their most success yet. What is not so widely publicised on the site is the fact that out of the 107 points achieved by the team, 32 points came from Daniil Kvyat so the Russian certainly played his part.
The final insult (for lack of a better word) is the fact that the main page of scuderiaalphatauri.com features the 2020 car AT01…but the 2021 drivers under the heading ‘Meet The Drivers’. The image of Daniil Kvyat and the number 26 has been replaced with Yuki Tsunoda and the number 22. All of this before the end of season FIA prize giving.
Formula One is a ruthless sport and Yuki Tsunoda is certainly worthy of his place in the AlphaTauri team in 2021. The Japanese racer made headlines for his daring moves over the course of the Formula 2 season and his third place in the Drivers’ Championship shows his quality. Tsunoda amassed seven podiums in 2020 which included, two Feature Race victories and a Sprint Race win.
Yuki Tsunoda deserves to be in Formula One. Yuki Tsunoda deserves to drive for AlphaTauri. Daniil Kvyat though, deserved so much better.