With Daniil Kvyat having been granted a Formula 1 super licence to take in part in the opening practice ahead of Sunday’s United States Grand Prix the process for selecting eligible drivers will be once again under the spotlight.
The GP3 champion is due to step up to Formula 1 next season as Daniel Ricciardo’s replacement at Toro Rosso but given his age and a lack of mileage in an F1 car there had been questions raised about the team’s decision to promote him. The Russian’s speed and ability is not in doubt but because of his age and experience questions needed to be asked about his move.
It is a similar situation to the one that Sauber found themselves in when Kimi Raikkonen was hired in 2001. That year the Finn, like Kvyat, was a highly regarded driver but was making the step up to Formula 1 from one of the smaller feeder series. In Raikkonen’s case it was Formula Renault, as opposed to GP3, but the level of both series was broadly similar. Raikkonen of course went on to instantly adapt to Formula 1 and score points on his Grand Prix debut.
“Drivers need a super licence and they can gain it by winning some prescribed championships and by doing a certain amount of mileage in a Formula 1 car,” said the Englishman. “It’s a sensitive area because the permanent bureau, which is a relatively small group that gets to consider super licences, are mindful that we must act in a way to encourage young drivers and supports the smaller teams because often the drivers without the prescribed criteria are going to a smaller team because the team thinks that he has talent or, to be frank, because they’ve got some money.”
Last Friday Kvyat spent Friday at the Misano circuit in Italy performing promotional work for Toro Rosso and completed approximately 400km in the car. The Russian has therefore met both stipulations for being granted a super licence.
“It’s four people with the President of the FIA, the CEO of the commercial rights holder and the team principals’ of Ferrari and McLaren. Normally it’s done by email and decisions are made within about 48 hours. The idea of the Permanent Bureau is that we can make the decision much faster [than the past].
“I think that we’re mindful of balancing that and sometimes a super licence is issued on a provisional basis. We don’t always get it right and there has been some questionable drivers on the track and we have the ability to see that and we have the ability to withdraw it. I think that it’s a heavy decision because if you say no you are potentially harming the small team that needs the money and you’re also blocking someone’s career. So I think from my experience the bureau errs on the side of wanting to issue the super licence unless there’s clear evidence that the person isn’t fit or safe to be out there.”