Despite all of the anticipation surrounding a seemingly imminent arrival of Antonio Felix Da Costa at Toro Rosso for 2014, the big news on Monday night came as a great surprise to the F1 community as a whole. Rather than Da Costa, Toro Rosso announced that 19-year-old GP3 star Daniil Kyvat would claim the seat alongside the Red Bull reject Jean Eric Vergne for 2014. This has led to widespread debate; is Kyvat ready for Formula One after just one season in GP3 and why has Antonio Felix Da Costa been rejected.
It has certainly been a whirlwind season for the young Russian. He has competed in both GP3 and in European Formula 3 – Kvyat will contend the GP3 title in Abu Dhabi as he currently sits P2 in the standings, trailing Facu Regalia by a mere seven points. His speed has been evident throughout the season, including his ability to adapt to changing circumstances, considering his appearance in two series.
Back in July, Daniil received his first F1 test, as he drove the STR8 at the Young Drivers Test at Silverstone. It was an impressive 22 lap run, as I hinted at the time when writing the extended piece, entitled; How Strong Are The Next Generation? Immediately after the test, Daniil was asked whether he felt that the outing had brought him a step closer to the pinnacle, in which he replied; “Today made my dream even bigger. My first dream was to drive an F1 car. Today it’s done, and now after this session I feel like with more mileage I should get more comfortable with the car and I’m confident I could be quick in this car. Unfortunately it’s really limited for young drivers these days but hopefully my job has not gone unnoticed.” Evidently, Toro Rosso were impressed with his progress – perhaps identifying him as a possible 2014 prospect as early as the test.
Kvyat’s signing is not in itself surprising in my opinion. What shocked me, was the refusal of Antonio Felix Da Costa, who has been threatening Ricciardo and Vergne at times, as rumours have frequently surfaced that the team had considered replacing out-of-form drivers, especially at the end of 2012. At one stage, it was even considered that Da Costa might jump a step and skip the Toro Rosso seat by launching straight into Red Bull. This notion can be dated back to the end of last year when neither Toro Rosso driver was a perfect candidate for a graduation. Nevertheless, Da Costa has been very much on the radar for a considerable amount of time. Kvyat beating him to the seat is a hammer-blow for the 22-year-old – especially considering that the pair are room-mates.
However, as is a sign of the times in Formula One, the move is surly a result of finance. Kvyat has undoubtedly more funds than Da Costa and with 2014 threatening to cripple a number of midfield teams, it is likely that Antonio is just another victim of the pay drivers charade.