Gasly Gets Malaysia F1 Debut, Kvyat Dropped For Second Time
A long-awaited switch involving a Toro Rosso driver has finally been made ahead of the final Malaysia Grand Prix, but it is not the one expected.
2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly is making his F1 debut this weekend as Daniil Kvyat is given a break by Toro Rosso.
Gasly will pilot its car, using the permanent race No. 10, alongside Carlos Sainz for an undisclosed number of events.
Autosport believes that this includes Malaysia and Japan. The United States Grand Prix should be a miss as it runs at the same time as the final round of the Super Formula season.
Gasly has spent the year as a reserve driver for Red Bull in between a spell in the Japanese series for Team Mugen, in which he has two wins and is currently going into the final two races 0.5 points behind championship leader Hiroaki Ishiura with a maximum 16 remaining.
The Frenchman also stood in for former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi at Renault e.dams at New York’s Formula E round in July.
“Toro Rosso was established by Red Bull to bring youngsters from its Junior Program into F1 and that’s what we are doing by giving Pierre this chance,” team principal Franz Tost explained. “He is the next in line at Red Bull for this opportunity and he has shown that he deserves it. 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.”
The move means that Kvyat is out of a Red Bull team for the second time in 17 months after being demoted from Red Bull to Toro Rosso in a swap with Max Verstappen last May.
Statistically, the Russian scored just four points in 2017, placing 19th and only behind Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson in the drivers’ championship.
If he were to not score for the rest of the year, a total of four would be the worst-ever for a competitor from the Italian-based team since the introduction of the current 25-points-for-a-win system in 2010.
Why Change Now?
The question of why the change has been made with six rounds of the 2017 season still to run has been asked and will be speculated over in coming days.
One thing that is for certain is that he has proven that he can master an extremely tough series in Super Formula and sit ahead in the championship of Felix Rosenqvist – one of the most highly thought of drivers coming up on the open–wheel scene.
He has already shown that he can be right on the pace while jumping into a car at short notice, and he is also a dream for Honda.
Honda is having to face going into rounds in its home territory, including the Japanese Grand Prix, just weeks after its split with McLaren after three years of power unit struggles. A series of strong performances by someone who has driven a Mugen Honda ahead of Toro Rosso’s move to the brand in 2018 would be a good PR exercise.
A sense of direction also potentially needs to be found within the Toro Rosso camp. With Carlos Sainz being loaned to Renault, a seat is already empty for 2018, but a fast driver may need to emerge should Sainz totally leave, and one of Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen at Red Bull go ahead of 2019.
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