Wesley Branton | April 16, 2019 @ 2:59 am
Daniil Kvyat is a driver who has received his share of criticism in recent years, earning himself the nickname “Torpedo”. But the penalty awarded to Kvyat in this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix suggests that the stewards are tougher on him than other drivers.
Kvyat had a bright future when he joined Toro Rosso in 2014, having performed very well in GP3 the year prior. He advanced through the ranks quickly, being promoted to Red Bull in 2015, albeit likely due to Red Bull’s lack of options after Vettel’s surprise move to Ferrari.
But his position at Red Bull was short-lived. He made the mistake of crashing into Vettel during the 2016 Russian Grand Prix, which also compromised teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s race. Kvyat was promptly ejected from the team and sent back to Toro Rosso. Near the end of 2017, the Toro Rosso team gave up on Kvyat as well, opting not to renew his contract and handing over his seat to Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley for the remainder of the season.
After a year break from F1, Kvyat was given the rare opportunity for a second chance in F1 with Toro Rosso. But after just three races, Kvyat is already in the spotlight for a collision in the Chinese Grand Prix that ruined the race for both McLaren drivers on the opening lap.
On the first lap, Kvyat was on the inside of the corner and had some oversteer as he applied the throttle. He turned the wheel to the left to correct the slide, doing so successfully. However, this put him wide in the corner and into the sides of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris. Both of McLaren’s came away from the incident with damage.
The collision grabbed the attention of the stewards and they opted to impose the second most severe in-race penalty: a drive-through penalty. Toro Rosso eventually retired the car to save engine mileage.
Kvyat disagreed with the stewards’ decision, saying: “I have seen the first lap incident with the two McLarens and I disagree with [the] penalty. I think it was a typical lap one sandwich and these things can happen as we’re so close together.”
In this particular case, I wholeheartedly agree with Kvyat’s view. The penalty appears to be based on his driving record rather than the actual incident and I don’t believe that the punishment was warranted.
No penalty over the past year was severe as Kvyat’s, except for Esteban Ocon’s due to his collision with Max Verstappen in Brazil (a penalty I also firmly disagreed with). The stewards didn’t issue any drive-through penalties last season.
In fact, you can use a remarkably similar incident for comparison. Lance Stroll also felt some oversteer on the opening lap in Canada last year. He, like Kvyat, also made corrective input on the steering wheel to fix the slide. This put him into Brendon Hartley, who had nowhere to go but the barrier. This incident was also reviewed by the stewards but had a radically different outcome.
Despite the fact that the crash ended Hartley’s race and put other drivers in danger, the stewards failed to issue a penalty for the incident. So why were the stewards so tough on Kvyat?
I’d argue it’s because of Kvyat’s past driving record in F1. He’s had his share of crashes and amassed a total of 15 points on his license over a two year period (11 of which are for collisions), but none of which still stand. It’s painfully evident that the stewards have chosen to penalize Kvyat because of his reputation for crashes. In this case, the penalty doesn’t fit the crime. Collisions in 2018 warranted at most a 10-second penalty for other drivers.
I can’t help feeling that Kvyat is being judged at a higher standard than his competitors.
Mistakes happen, even to the best of drivers. Oversteer happens, as we saw with Vettel in Bahrain. Unfortunately, when it happens when everyone is bunched together at the start of the race, it may ruin someone else’s day. That doesn’t make it any less of an accident and doesn’t necessarily mean that it was avoidable.
Kvyat’s penalty is so severe that it’s almost as if the stewards believe that Kvyat turned into the McLaren teammates intentionally when that’s obviously not the case. At the end of the day, a penalty of this magnitude was completely unwarranted and it goes against what should be the stewards’ core mission statement: to fairly apply the rules to everyone equally.