Toro Rosso set to confirm Daniil Kvyat return

SOCHI, Russia — Toro Rosso is expected to confirm the return of former driver Daniil Kvyat during this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Kvyat was axed by the team and dropped from the Red Bull driver programme after last year’s U.S. Grand Prix. The Russian driver had started his career with Toro Rosso in 2014 and was elevated to the senior team the following year to replace Sebastian Vettel, but failed to score a victory in his time with the former world champions. He was demoted in 2016 in favour of Max Verstappen and struggled for form in his second stint at the Faenza-based team.

Toro Rosso has yet to confirm either of its drivers for 2019. Pierre Gasly is set to make the move up to Red Bull to replace Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo, while Brendon Hartley’s future remains uncertain. Kvyat was picked up by Ferrari in a developmental role at the start of the season, but will be back for a third stint with Toro Rosso next season, with confirmation due later in the weekend of his home race.

The news will mark another comeback for a formerly ousted Red Bull junior. Hartley returned to the team late last year despite being cut by its driver programme in 2010. The New Zealander has done enough in other categories, namely in World Endurance Championship, to convince Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko to give him another chance.

If Hartley is not retained, Red Bull will have to look beyond its own driver programme. Its leading junior driver, Dan Ticktum, will not have enough superlicence points for a 2019 F1 seat even if he beats Mick Schumacher to this year’s Formula 3 title — something which is looking increasingly unlikely. Pascal Wehrlein, who earlier this month was released from the Mercedes junior programme, has been linked with a seat. Former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi was also linked, but he has now confirmed he will be staying in Formula E with Nissan.