SOCHI, Russia -- Toro Rosso has confirmed former driver Daniil Kvyat will return for a third stint with the team in 2019.
Kvyat has been without a race seat in Formula One since being dropped by Toro Rosso and axed from the Red Bull driver programme last year. The Russian driver was picked up as Ferrari's development driver this season, with his role mainly centering around simulator work. On Saturday, as had become widely expected in the F1 paddock, Toro Rosso announced Kvyat will be back in a racing capacity for next season.
Kvyat started his career with the team in 2014 and was promoted to replace Ferrari-bound Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull in 2015. However, he failed to score a win for the former world champions, and an erratic start to the following season saw him demoted back to Toro Rosso ahead of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix. His second stint lasted until last year's U.S. Grand Prix in October.
Toro Rosso knew it had to find at least one new driver for next year following Pierre Gasly's promotion to Red Bull; the Frenchman will replace Daniel Ricciardo after the Australian makes the switch to Renault next year. The future of Gasly's teammate is less certain. Brendon Hartley enjoyed his own comeback story last year, which coincided with the end of Kvyat's second stint, but he has struggled for form in 2018.
If the team were to replace Hartley, there are limited options. Red Bulls' driver programme has no viable candidates as its leading junior driver, Dan Ticktum, does not have enough superlicence points to make the step up to F1 and will not, even if he beats Mick Schumacher to this year's Formula 3 title, something which is looking increasingly unlikely. Former Manor and Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein has been linked with the other seat since being released from Mercedes' programme earlier this month.
Speaking of Kvyat's return, Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost said: "I believe he deserves another chance in Formula One.
"Daniil is a high-skilled driver with fantastic natural speed, which he has proven several times in his career. There were some difficult situations he had to face in the past, but I'm convinced that having had time to mature as a person away from the races will help him show his undeniable capabilities on track. We'll push very hard to provide him with a good package, and I feel the best is yet to come from his side. That's why we are happy to welcome him back to our team, to start a successful season together."