A few years ago, Red Bull decided that their squillions of dollars could be spend on extreme sports, in a strategy designed to advertise the brand and recoup expenditure with more Red Bull money. Part of this decision included buying the failing Jaguar Racing Team and re-branding it as Red Bull Racing. Their first coup came when former McLaren driver and square-headed Scot David Coulthard signed for the team. Australian Mark Webber later joined it, and then DC was replaced by Sebastian Vettel in 2009 after DC retired… and in 2010 Red Bull won it’s first double constructor’s and driver’s titles. (Constructors is for the winning team).
Over the course of this, Red Bull has started a young driver academy, to create a stable of upcoming talent in lesser racing formulas that can one day be brought into F1. Another way of achieving this is the sister team to Red Bull, Scuderia Toro Rosso – bought from the remnants of Minardi racing in 2006.
Toro Rosso was, at least in theory, going to prepare drivers for the senior (Red Bull) team and that was the mandate under which the scuderia operated. As I mentioned, Vettel made the move from STR to Red Bull for 2009 but no other drivers had followed suit – mostly because the other Red Bull driver, Mark Webber, wasn’t going anywhere and was a rock solid performer. In 2011, STR drivers Jaime Algesuari (SPA) and Sebastian Buemi (CH, or Switzerland if you prefer ;)) were both dropped in a fairly shock move, being replaced with French driver Jean-Eric Vergne and Australian Daniel Ricciardo. I blogged earlier about Ricciardo getting the Red Bull seat, almost proving that the STR -> Red Bull process works.
So, where does the young Russian Daniil Kyvat feature in this? Good question. There’s two things I want to cover. The first is “pay drivers”. Pay drivers are a common feature in F1 and are much what they sound like – drivers who get their seat because the team wants the sponsorship money they bring with it. Pastor Maldonado, of WilliamsF1, is a good example of this – yes, he won in Spain in 2012 but he tends to drive like it’s MarioKart and is basically an utter asshole from what I can see. But, the government of the thankfully-dead jerk Hugo Chavez, through state oil firm PVSDA, paid good sponsorship money so that Maldonado could wreck people’s races so he gets a seat. It tends to annoy a lot of drivers who are arguably more talented but less backed by big companies. Rightly or wrongly…
Red Bull, as I mentioned, have squillions of dollars so they can afford (pardon the pun) not to trawl for pay drivers and can promote talent to the sport. Previously, Antontio Felix da Costa had been rumoured for the seat (and I believe he has the same manager as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, so rumours that Alonso was leaving Ferrari for Red Bull were probably based on Felix da Costa’s – and Alonso’s – manager meeting with Red Bull) but has endured a difficult season in Formula Renault 3.5 this year. Kyvat, by contrast, has done well simultaneously in GP3 and Formula 3 which is crucial as they are vastly different cars with different tyre compounds. Tyres are crucial in Formula 1 at the moment so no doubt this helped make the decision in the Russian’s favour.
It will be interesting to see if he delivers – so far, the only Russian in Formula 1 has been VItali Petrov and he was good but inconsistent. Between Kyvat and Sauber F1 prodigy Sergey Sirotkin in 2014 we have two hyped Russian drivers. Russia’s a target market for F1 so obviously the F1 powers-what-be will be happy.
Now, to get some American drivers…