Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat - A comparison of their F1 journeys
Perez and Kvyat - similar starts to their careers, similar backgrounds, similar hassles at big teams and yet different conditions right now.
Sergio Perez who was just the fifth Mexican driver to drive an F1 car in a World Championship event was a star to watch out for in the paddock. Having already been taken up by Ferrari in their young driver academy, no one doubted his potential when he replaced Nick Heidfeld in 2011 to race for Sauber.
He was decent in his rookie season and secured a fantastic second place in the Italian Grand Prix in his second season after starting from 12th.
After that, he was offered a deal by McLaren who were just second to Red Bull at that time and he must have hoped to challenge for the World Championship with them. With this, he effectively exited the Ferrari Driver Academy because of joining a rival team after Lewis Hamilton decided to move from McLaren to Mercedes.
McLaren surprisingly had a car that was not able to challenge for victories and Perez couldn't even secure a podium finish for the whole of 2013. Added to that, his on-track battles with Jenson Button didn't help in forming a good impression on the team and he was left in the cold by the British team after the 2013 season.
McLaren's loss was Force India's gain as they hired Perez as their driver for 2014 and he almost immediately repaid the Silverstone-based team's faith with a podium in Bahrain. After not succeeding at McLaren, here was a man who was trying to prove himself to the world and trying to reform himself.
He has done everything in his control to ensure that he is in the contention whenever a seat at a top team is available. Against a driver who was highly rated in the paddock Nico Hulkenberg, he outscored him in two out of the three seasons (2015, 2016) they were paired in. This shows the evolution of the Mexican - how he became more consistent in his performances.
Against Esteban Ocon, he has had his moments, being over-aggressive against his own teammate brings the flashes of Button - Perez partnership. 'Checo' as he is famously known as has had his share of ups and downs but what one must appreciate about him is his ability to handle those situations. He did not have any off-track issues with Jenson Button and after Spa, he looks to be sharing a better relationship with Esteban Ocon
Now, moving on to Daniil Kvyat, who was touted as a very big talent when he burst onto the scene in 2014 and became the youngest points-scorer then, the record which was ironically broken eventually by none other than Max Verstappen. The Russian easily matched Jean-Eric Vergne and had good races early on in his career with Toro Rosso.
Red Bull regarded him very highly and rewarded his performances by preferring him over Jean-Eric Vergne when they announced him as the driver who would replace Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull in 2015. This move raised a few arrows as he was barely 20 and many people were questioning this decision as they thought a move to a World Championship worthy team was hasty for his own good.
Unfortunately for Kvyat, Red Bull had one of the worst seasons in their short history in 2015 in which they finished 4th behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams. Kvyat finished second to stand on the Formula 1 podium for the first time and also managed to outscore his teammate, the highly-rated Daniel Ricciardo.
He was inconsistent and had a few on-track moments here and there but he just managed to pip Daniel in the Driver's Championship to take 7th position. 2015 was the same year F1 fans got to see the 17-year-old Max Verstappen racing in F1 even before he even gained his Driver's License! The Dutchman raised to prominence with taking a couple of 4th positions in Hungary and United States.
2016 saw Red Bull getting more competitive and Kvyat must have been looking forward to this season now that he believed he could show his true worth in F1. But, as things panned out, after grabbing another podium position in China, he would go on to run into Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari twice in the space of two corners at his 'home' Grand Prix in Russia.
This was the start of a very unforgiving couple of weeks for the Russian as he was replaced with the promising Max Verstappen by the Red Bull management thus putting him in Toro Rosso again in a mid-season swap just before the Spanish Grand Prix.
This turned out to be a confidence-shattering move for the Russian and his performances became more erratic and he seemed to be having more lapses of concentration and more accidents after his demotion to Toro Rosso. Max Verstappen, on the other hand, is a household name by now for his impressive performances and won his first race for Red Bull Racing in the Spanish Grand Prix 2016.
Providing flashes of brilliance that he showed in the first two years has not been good enough for a man of Kvyat's talents and even he knows that he is under-performing when his performances are compared to another impressive young Red Bull driver Carlos Sainz Jr. In 2017, he has gained more penalty points on his Superlicense than World Championship Points! Was he always that bad? Statistics before the infamous swap among Red Bull and Toro Rosso say no to this tantalizing question.
Just before starting his Formula 1 adventure, he was contesting in GP3 Championship in 2013 and won that title. The interesting part is, Carlos Sainz Jr. was competing in the same category in the same team and finished 9th in the points tally, a whopping 102 points behind Kvyat!
Granted, the Spaniard struck a bit of misfortune in that season but outscoring such a talented driver with that big a margin is no child's play.
So, the question is what has gone wrong with his career?
The answer to this might come from Checo's career. Checo had a similar fantastic outbreak in Formula 1. Very similarly, he went to a big team which to the surprise of many struggled in the year he joined. Kvyat had the same misfortune but one thing that Checo did was to come with an attitude after his debacle at McLaren, the attitude which says 'I am here to prove a point and no one can stop me from making my mark'.
Presently, their market value is miles apart but in terms of talent, we know Kvyat has got a truckload of it and he can probably match Perez easily. So, Kvyat should find something that keeps him focused and be mentally resolute just like Checo did with Force India. Maybe what Kvyat needs is Red Bull's trust in his abilities and he needs to rediscover himself again.
It looks as if there is a bright chance that Daniil Kvyat will stay in F1 for one more year with Toro Rosso after Carlos Sainz's move to Renault and only one notable Red Bull young driver in the pipeline - Pierre Gasly, but he needs to make this year count. Take all the time he needs but he has to come back strong otherwise Formula One would lose another very talented driver because of just one move that didn't turn out well for him.
Everyone knows he has the potential, he just has to be mentally tougher and realize his potential and repay the efforts of all those who have worked hard for him to make it to F1.