Toro Rosso F1 mid season analysis: How big is the margin between Kvyat and Sainz?
Toro Rosso is having what could be described as a 'steady' season, neither moving forwards, nor backwards; fighting for fifth place in the Formula ...
Toro Rosso is having what could be described as a 'steady' season, neither moving forwards, nor backwards; fighting for fifth place in the Formula 1 constructors' standings against Williams, with a decent chassis and a slowly improving Renault power unit.
Sitting towards the top of the midfield is a good position, and an enviable one for a number of teams, but Toro Rosso has an even more enviable prospect in Carlos Sainz Jr.
The wantaway Spaniard has brought Toro Rosso 35 of its 39 points this season so far and he has been open about a potential move away from the Red Bull feeder team.
In July, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was adamant that Sainz would stay, saying to Autosport, "Nothing has changed. Carlos Sainz has a contract with Red Bull Racing.
"There are two years left on that. We value him as an asset, and an asset has a value."
Horner went on to say that he is open to a move for Sainz if another team made an adequate offer.
"If somebody was prepared to make an offer of course we would consider it.
"But it would have to have a significant value attached to it, because we have invested in Carlos significantly.
"We have taken him from Formula BMW to F1, and you are not just going to give an asset away."
Austrian sources have said that Red Bull have told Sainz that he can leave if he reimburses the money the drinks giant invested in his junior career; likely to be in the region of €4 to 5 million.
Sainz' Russian team-mate Daniil Kvyat has had contrasting fortunes to his counterpart, having been demoted before the Spanish Grand Prix in 2016 from Red Bull.
Kvyat's temperament has been questioned throughout his Toro Rosso tenure with the 'Torpedo' nickname rearing its head from time to time.
There is no doubt that Kvyat has found his return to Toro Rosso difficult, having picked up just six points with the outfit since the Spanish GP - as many as Pascal Wehrlein - and the second lowest points haul over the same period (of any current driver) with Jolyon Palmer having brought in one point since the 2016 Spanish GP.
The situation looks uncompetitive on paper, but Kvyat still shows moments of potential, having struggled through qualifying in Spain to finish 9th from the back row of the grid, also bringing in points in the Australian GP. His head-to-head qualifying statistics show that Kvyat can keep up with Sainz on short runs, but it's the race pace that has been lacking so far.
Sainz's impressive season however, does little to boost up Kvyat's stock, with a best finish of sixth this season in Monaco and a points-finish in all seven races he's managed to finish. Furthermore, his seventh place finish in China is a shining example of a driver performing at a level above his car.
His first-lap crash with Haas' Romain Grosjean which sparked a mini pile-up at Montreal is a black mark on an otherwise terrific start to the season. If Kvyat carries his solid qualifying performances into races, the second half of 2017 could see Toro Rosso climbing to fifth and cementing its position in the constructors' standings.
Toro Rosso's 2017 season in numbers
In the third-most unreliable car in the field, Kvyat and Sainz have done an admirable job of bringing in 39 points, holding sixth place in the constructors' standings. Toro Rosso has completed only 1049 laps in 2017 so far: 41 more than McLaren and 121 more than Red Bull.
Of course, not all of Toro Rosso's failures to finish have been due to a lack of reliability. The British GP saw the pair collide with both drivers blamed post-race; a furious Kvyat retired from the Canadian GP with a clumsy wheel-nut problem (after a drive-through penalty and a 10 second penalty for incorrectly lining up after the formation lap); and Sainz ended his race early with the aforementioned lap one collision which angered the rest of the grid.
Despite those collisions and retirements, Sainz has spent 388 laps - more than Felipe Massa and nine fewer than Max Verstappen - in the top 10 with an average finish of 7.6 this season. He gains an average 2.7 places per race as well.
Team-mate Kvyat doesn't fare so well, though he has completed 85 more laps than Sainz. Kvyat finishes in an average position of 12.3, having led 49 laps over his team-mate. Conversely, Sainz has led 338 laps over Kvyat this season.
It's qualifying where Kvyat and Sainz match up, with Sainz winning the head-to-head narrowly at 6-5. Sainz starts races at an average position of 11th, while Kvyat starts 12th. Only on long runs do we see the gap between the two Toro Rosso drivers widen, with Sainz leading that intra-team battle.
This is still a fine season for Toro Rosso so far, with 39 points. However, in 2016 the team had 45 at this point, but in 2015 it had 35.
With Sainz having gained 35 of those 39 points in 2017, his highest career tally at this point to date (30 points in 2016 after 11 races and nine in 2015 after 11 races), the onus is on Kvyat to deliver.
There's no doubt that Kvyat has the talent, having been a regular points scorer at Red Bull, but the pressure will only grow from here as Toro Rosso fight wheel-to-wheel with Williams and Sainz streaks ahead.
Research and Reporting: Samarth Kanal
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