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Kvyat earns F1 Super Licence

Daniil Kvyat has earned his FIA Super Licence (Image: Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic)

Daniil Kvyat has earned his FIA Super Licence (Image: Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic)

19-year old Russian Daniil Kvyat has earned his FIA Super Licence, and is therefore permitted to race in Formula One. Kvyat drove a two-year old Toro Rosso car in Italy last Friday in order to gain the experience required before a Super Licence can be issued.

One of the ways a driver can earn a Super Licence is by driving at least 300km in fairly recent Formula One machinery. Kvyat covered just over 400km by completing 102 laps of the Misano circuit in Italy, which gives him more than the required experience. His Super Licence has thus been issued. In evaluating Kvyat’s Super Licence application, the FIA will also have taken into account his other racing experience – Kvyat recently won the 2013 GP3 championship, which will certainly have helped his cause to obtain a Super Licence.

Now that he is licensed to take part in Grand Prix weekends, Kvyat can begin to integrate himself into the race team at Toro Rosso. He will do that by taking part in the first practice session at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. He will also drive in first practice for next week’s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

Kvyat to complete Super Licence test

Daniil Kvyat

Daniil Kvyat drives for Toro Rosso during the 2013 Young Driver Test (Photo credit: nic_r)

A few weeks ago it was announced that Russian Daniil Kvyat will drive for Toro Rosso in the 2014 Formula One World Championship. Before that can happen, he needs an FIA Super Licence – the coveted licence that allows racing drivers to participate in Formula One race weekends.

Kvyat needs his Super Licence with some urgency. Although he’s not set to actually race in F1 until the Australian Grand Prix on 16 March 2014, Kvyat’s Toro Rosso team wants to put him in one of their cars for the first practice session of each of the last two races in 2013. The reason for that is fairly obvious: every lap he does in an F1 car is a step forward in his development as an F1 driver, so the sooner they can start, the better.

Although he’s certainly no slouch as a racing driver – Kvyat secured the 2013 GP3 title last weekend in Abu Dhabi in his first season in the series – he has precious little experience behind wheel of a Formula One car. Kvyat’s only F1 outing to date came in this year’s Young Driver Test at Silverstone in July, but he did not complete enough running to earn a Super Licence – a driver must complete 300km in reasonably current F1 machinery before a Super Licence will be granted.

The next Formula One race is in Austin, Texas on 17 November. Friday practice (in which Kvyat is hoping to take part) is on 15 November. That gives him just 9 days to secure a Super Licence if he is to drive a Toro Rosso at the Circuit of the Americas in just over a week’s time.

To that end, Daniil Kvyat will drive a 2011 Toro Rosso car in Italy this week in order to cover the required 300km before his Super Licence will be issued. Assuming all goes according to plan, Kvyat should be behind the wheel of a 2013 Toro Rosso in Austin for Free Practice 1 on 15 November.

Ricciardo to partner Vettel at Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo will drive for Red Bull from 2014 (Photo credit: Phil Guest)

What has been generally accepted for weeks is now official: Daniel Ricciardo will drive for Red Bull alongside Sebastian Vettel in 2014. The 24-year old Australian will take the place of Mark Webber, who leaves Formula One at the end of 2013 after a 12-year career including seven seasons at Red Bull.

Ricciardo is the recipient of what is truly the chance of a lifetime. He will race alongside arguably the top current F1 driver at the current top F1 team. He will have the opportunity to win races and compete for the world championship. On the other side of the coin, he will have no valid excuses should he fail to perform.

Ricciardo is the second product of the Toro Rosso team to be signed for Red Bull – Sebastian Vettel himself was the first. Toro Rosso exists partly as a training ground for Red Bull drivers, and so far the system has worked well, albeit briefly. Vettel won a race for Toro Rosso in 2008, to-date the only Toro Rosso victory, before replacing the retiring David Coulthard at Red Bull in 2009 and taking that team’s maiden victory at the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo has not had the same level of success as Vettel did at Toro Rosso, but that is understandable considering that the team is not as competitive as it was back in 2008. Nonetheless, Ricciardo is highly rated and expected to excel in his new team next season.

Red Bull’s new driver is understandably thrilled at being signed to drive for the world champion team. Ricciardo said after the announcement:

“I feel very, very good at the moment and obviously there’s a lot of excitement running through me. Since joining F1 in 2011, I hoped this would happen and over time the belief in me has grown; I had some good results and Red Bull has decided that this is it, so it’s a good time.”

Ricciardo made it clear that he knows what is expected of him as a Red Bull driver, saying, “Next year I’ll be with a Championship-winning team, arguably the best team, and will be expected to deliver. I’m ready for that. I’m not here to run around in tenth place, I want to get the best results for myself and the team.”

Despite his excitement, Ricciardo remains focused on the task of securing results for his current team, Toro Rosso, in 2013: “My aim is to finish this season as strong as possible, for myself and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Then, once the off-season is here, I’ll be fully focused on next year and the next stage of my career.”

HRT – potential development team

HRT is currently for sale, and the general impression in Formula One is that buyers are not exactly queuing up. Considering that the team’s history consists of three thoroughly uncompetitive seasons, that is perhaps not so surprising. But the sale of the team does present an interesting opportunity to the existing big teams.

Each of the 12 current Formula One teams operates independently. That is, each team designs, builds and races its own chassis. Engines are sourced from one of four suppliers: Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz or Cosworth. There are some technical partnerships between the teams, notable examples being Caterham’s use of Red Bull’s gearbox and McLaren’s technical partnership with Marussia. But in general, the the teams exist in isolation.

There is one exception to the pattern of separation between Formula One teams. And that is the relationship between Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Both teams are owned by energy drink giant Red Bull, and until regulations made it illegal from 2010 the two teams ran essentially the same chassis. Toro Rosso is, for all intents and purposes, the junior Red Bull team, and is used to develop drivers. It famously produced currently triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who drove for Toro Rosso during 2007 and 2008 before moving to Red Bull Racing in 2009.

Red Bull’s ownership of two teams has some particular benefits. From a marketing perspective, it provides an advertising platform twice the size of any other in Formula One – instead of having two cars in Red Bull colours, there are four. For driver development, it is the perfect solution. In-season testing in Formula One is virtually forbidden for reasons of cost saving. Other teams run test and development drivers during Friday morning practice on Grand Prix weekends. Red Bull runs their development drivers in full race seats at Toro Rosso, which gives the drivers infinitely better experience than any other team can offer. From a strategic perspective, one sixth of the grid is racing for Red Bull, which is crucial on the track – a Red Bull Racing driver in the fight for the World Championship can count on having an easy time passing a Toro Rosso.

Having a junior team works very well for Red Bull. So why not for other teams? Fairly obviously, it is a question of finance. Red Bull are prepared to pump money into two teams, and it is paying off. They are winning the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships consistently, and have a ready supply of capable drivers waiting in the wings. Perhaps the other teams with big budgets should look at a similar idea. The teams in such a position are Ferrari, McLaren, and possibly Mercedes.

Taking over HRT would have some significant advantages over starting a new team or running a separate development program outside of Formula One. The team already exists. It has a base in Madrid and a race team with three years of experience. In Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan, HRT has two capable race drivers. All that is required is funding and the right technical personnel to help the team progress. And, to be frank, HRT’s performance cannot get worse. For three seasons, HRT cars have been at the back of the field. The only available direction is forward.

Red Bull saw the value in HRT in 2011, when there was a need to give Daniel Ricciardo a taste of racing at the highest level. Red Bull paid for Ricciard to drive for HRT in 11 races of the 2011 season before offering him a full-time driver for Toro Rosso in 2012.

This is a golden opportunity for one of the big teams in Formula One to create an increased presence in the sport. A junior team equipped for driver development has already shown value for Red Bull. It is time for one of the other major players in Formula One to follow suit.

More drivers confirmed for 2013

The week between the Indian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix has seen a number of announcements about driver line-ups for 2013. There are no surprises, but nonetheless these drivers will all be relieved to have at least another season in Formula One.

Lotus have retained the services of Kimi Raikkonen for next season. The Finn has had a strong return to Formula One after spending two years rallying. Although he has not yet won a race for Lotus, Raikkonen has stood on the podium six times and is currently third in the Drivers’ Championship. He is no longer in a position to win this year’s title, but expects to challenge for the top spot in 2013.

Nico Hulkenberg is moving to Sauber for 2013. He was previously linked with a possible move to Ferrari, but the Scuderia opted to re-sign Felipe Massa for another season. Hulkenberg’s switch to Sauber has been greeted with scepticism from some quarters, with suggestions that it is a sideways move, rather than one that will move his career forward. Sauber are currently ahead of Hulkenberg’s current team, Force India, in the Constructors’ Championship, and have scored four podiums this season. That competitiveness will almost certainly have been a large factor in Hulkenberg’s decision to move.

Toro Rosso have announced an unchanged driver line-up for next season. Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne joined the team at the beginning of 2012, and have done a reasonable job, looking particularly strong in the second half of the season.

The grid for 2013 now looks as follows:

Red Bull – Sebastian Vettel / Mark Webber
Ferrari – Fernando Alonso / Felipe Massa
McLaren – Jenson Button / Sergio Perez
Mercedes – Nico Rosberg / Lewis Hamilton
Lotus – Kimi Raikkonen / TBC
Sauber – Nico Hulkenberg / TBC
Force India – TBC / TBC
Williams – TBC / TBC
Toro Rosso – Daniel Ricciardo / Jean-Eric Vergne
Caterham – TBC / TBC
Marussia – Timo Glock / TBC
HRT – Pedro de la Rosa / TBC

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