Few drivers can boast the sort of meteoric rise that has carried Daniil Kvyat from highly-rated rookie to Formula One star in just a handful of years. There was surprise when the Russian first won his promotion into the sport, and surprise again when he landed a Red Bull drive after just one season. But Kvyat has stepped up on every occasion, delivering performances to exceed all expectations save his own.
The Russian youngster is not without pedigree. Born in the city of Ufa on April 26, 1994, Kvyat took his first steps towards Formula One racing when he sat in his first go-kart at the age of eight. It was only a matter of time before he began racing karts competitively, and just 12 months after he did, he and his family relocated to Rome so that young Daniil could compete in the ultra-competitive Italian kart championship.
After spending several years cutting his teeth in the cut-and-thrust world of karts - during which time he finished third in the KF3 European Championship and second in the WSK International Series - Kvyat stepped up to single-seaters in 2010, competing in Formula BMW with Red Bull backing. Despite his tender age he picked up tenth place overall in the European series and two race wins in the less-competitive Pacific series.
Kvyat transferred to Formula Renault 2.0 in 2011, but not before accumulating more valuable single-seater experience (not to mention podiums) during the winter months in the New Zealand-based Toyota Racing Series. His subsequent Formula Renault results suggest that it was the ideal preparation - despite a relatively rocky start to the summer, Kvyat finished third in the Eurocup and runner-up in the Northern European Cup, with a hat-trick of victories at Monza in the latter series an obvious highlight.
Keen to hone his skills, Kvyat opted to stay in Formula Renault 2.0 for a second season in 2012. From a results point of view it proved a wise decision - he eased to the Alps title and finished a close second behind McLaren youngster Stoffel Vandoorne in the Eurocup, picking up numerous wins along the way.
Under the guidance of Red Bull’s junior programme boss, Dr Helmut Marko, Kvyat competed in both European F3 and GP3 in 2013. Switching between two very different cars on an almost weekly basis is never an easy thing for a young racer, but Kvyat made full use of the extra seat time and showed good progression, particularly in GP3 where, despite a slow start, his brilliant late-season form carried him to the title.
Kvyat’s first F1 outing came in July of that year when he drove for Toro Rosso at the young driver test at Silverstone. Despite completing just 22 laps, the Italian-based team were sufficiently impressed by his pace and technical feedback to sign him for a race drive in 2014, giving him practice outings at the final two 2013 Grands Prix in preparation.
There were those who questioned whether he was ready for the step-up, a concern that only intensified after Toro Rosso struggled during pre-season testing. Kvyat’s response was typically emphatic. Eighth on the grid in the Australian season opener became ninth at the flag, making Kvyat the youngest points scorer in F1 history. His form didn’t dip either: he scored points in three of the first four races and often overshadowed his more experienced team mate Jean-Eric Vergne.
Red Bull had asked a lot of the Russian, but he had delivered in style - and when Sebastian Vettel announced his departure to Ferrari, the team didn’t hesitate in promoting Kvyat. The pressure to deliver was certainly higher in 2015, and initially it looked like it was getting to the precociously talented youngster, even though Red Bull were not nearly as competitive as they - or Kvyat - had hoped.
But the newcomer soon found his feet and from mid-season onwards gave more experienced team mate Daniel Ricciardo a much better run for his money, scoring more points than the Australian and looking every bit a future F1 winner - especially during a measured drive to second place in Hungary.
A second podium followed early in 2016, but following two controversial lap-one clashes in the space of two races - both with Vettel - Kvyat found himself suddenly and unexpectedly moved back to Toro Rosso, replaced at Red Bull by the up-and-coming Max Verstappen. It appears he must now prove his worth all over again if his F1 career is to continue its upward trajectory.