Formula 1 is not known for its underdog stories. It is unforgiving, brutal, often callous. And nobody knows that better than Daniil Kvyat.

But at Hockenheim, the Russian found redemption and closure after three difficult years, sending a message out to the F1 world: he’s back, and back at his very best.

The Ballad of Daniil Kvyat was once a tale of woe. Binned off by Red Bull just four races into the 2016 season to make room for Max Verstappen, Kvyat returned to Toro Rosso with the promise of time to develop and gather his head – but never did. He was dropped after Singapore in 2017, brought back for one race at the United States Grand Prix, and then finally ditched for good by the Red Bull programme.

Or so we thought. After a year with Ferrari in a development role, Kvyat made a shock return to Toro Rosso as Red Bull ran short on options for its junior team. Team boss Franz Tost said he found a more mature Kvyat upon his return to Faenza, even if the driver himself remained coy on how much had really changed in his season away.

Greater composure was certainly something Kvyat appeared to have gained through the opening 10 races of the season, making an early statement by fending off Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly in Australia and taking an excellent P7 finish in Monaco – and then came Sunday at Hockenheim.

A race of survival is one Kvyat may not have coped well with two years ago, his crash out in wet conditions in Singapore being one of the final memories we had before his exit. But he managed to keep his head as so many others made mistake and slid off the circuit throughout the race, putting him in contention for a decent haul of points.

And then came the call that changed his race. As the field pulled away to the green flag after a Safety Car for Nico Hulkenberg’s crash, Kvyat gambled and dive into the pits to make the switch to slick tyres. Logically, it seemed like the worst possible time to do so – yet it proved to be a masterstroke. Kvyat found heaps of time on his outlap through the dry backend of the circuit, meaning that by the time the rest of the runners had come back to the pits to move off Intermediates, he had risen all the way up to P3.

Kvyat wasn’t stopping there. Far from placing all his focus on the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas lurking in his mirrors, Kvyat lined up a move on Lance Stroll before sweeping past on the run down to the hairpin, grabbing second place. The shock podium was on.

A late Safety Car for Bottas’ crash offered one final make-or-break moment to Kvyat, but his composure shone through yet again. Sebastian Vettel was always going to sweep past given his pace advantage in the Ferrari, but Kvyat kept Stroll and Carlos Sainz at bay to clinch third place – his first podium since China 2016, and Toro Rosso’s first since Italy 2008.

It capped off a remarkable 24 hours for Kvyat, who revealed in parc ferme his girlfriend, Kelly Piquet, had given birth to a baby girl on Saturday night.

In the three-and-a-bit years that have passed since his demotion from Red Bull, Kvyat’s life has taken so many turns – but this weekend acted as a long-awaited peak that he richly deserved.

So much must have been on Kvyat’s mind in the immediate aftermath of the race – but part was the journey his life has taken.

“It was an incredible few years in my life. A lot of realisations in my life, because there were sometimes tough times,” Kvyat said in the post-race press conference when I asked what this result meant against the context of his rollercoaster ride.

“I thought maybe Formula 1 was over for me. Maybe I thought, especially the podium, I would never ever have it again.

“But life just proves that if you work hard and never give up, things are possible. I think that’s exactly what happened today. Even the race was tough for everyone, I managed to keep it cool and just.

“All these three difficult years, it just felt like they crashed from my shoulders finally. I lost these chains today.”

I wanted to get up and slap him on the back. To see true redemption, true closure in such fashion showed the raw humanity that still runs deep in F1, even if hidden for the most part.

But Dany finished his answer saying he hoped the result sent a message: “I’m ready now to fight for this kind of moment on a consistent basis – and there is no stronger message than a podium like this.”

Was that a ‘come and get me’ call to the senior Red Bull team? In a season that has seen Gasly – the man who initially replaced Kvyat at Toro Rosso – struggle in the senior team, seen again on Sunday when he ran into the back of Alexander Albon with three laps to go, talk of a change for 2020 has been rife. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner even noted after the race that with two cars scoring big points like Max Verstappen is, P2 in the constructors’ championship ahead of Ferrari could be within reach.

A return to the senior Red Bull outfit would see Kvyat complete one of the most remarkable comeback stories in recent F1 history. Sunday’s result will only intensify such suggestions.

For now, Kvyat can revel in the closure the podium offered. He has proved why he deserved a third shot with Toro Rosso – and that his ‘second career’ in F1 could be bigger and brighter than anyone expected.

Comments

Loading Comments...