Quadrilin­gual Kvyat ex­plains how to stay on the right side of Dr Hel­mut Marko

Quick. Smart. Funny. But not bril­liant at skip­ping (yet). Red Bull’s lat­est pro­tégé opens up to F1 Rac­ing…


How much did you know about Red Bull’s Rus­sian won­derkid, apart from the fact that he’s very quick in a For­mula 1 car? Daniil Vy­ach­eslavovich Kvyat started rac­ing in sin­gle-seaters be­fore his 16th birth­day, made it to F1 be­fore his 20th – leapfrog­ging other Red Bull-backed tal­ents along the way – is flu­ently quadrilin­gual, and yet his de­meanour is en­dear­ingly un-F1. You sense that, even at his rel­a­tively youth­ful age and with a ca­reer re­cently un­der­writ­ten by the global soft drinks em­pire, he’s had an event­ful life – that he’s had to scratch around a bit.

So there are no airs and graces, no sense of en­ti­tle­ment, no en­tourage, no take-all-the-blue-M&Ms-out-of-the-bowl megas­tar-ness. When he walks from mo­torhome to garage he bowls along the pad­dock in his civvies, pale shorts hang­ing off spindly legs, look­ing like an ex­cited teenager who’s been lent a pass for the day. But this doesn’t al­ways come across in pic­tures; he’s still a touch cam­era-shy, and this man­i­fests it­self in a slight down­turn­ing of the mouth when­ever the lenses point his way. That tem­po­rary ric­tus of dis­gruntle­ment leads those who aren’t in the know to think he may be a bit… grumpy.

But he isn’t. He’s just the boy next door, al­beit one with stun­ning car con­trol. He’s reg­is­ter­ing highly on the JEV-ometer, too. Daniel Ric­cia­rdo’s per­for­mances rel­a­tive to Se­bas­tian Vet­tel at Red Bull this year have pro­vided some con­text to his two sea­sons along­side Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso; Dan out­qualied JEV more of­ten than not, but Vergne was usu­ally a match on race pace. Thus far this year, Kvyat is roughly on a par with Vergne in both qual­i­fy­ing and race per­for­mance, though our view of the lat­ter is of­ten clouded by the STR9’s poor re­li­a­bil­ity. Ex­u­ber­ance has got the bet­ter of him a cou­ple of times – that clumsy pass on Ser­gio Pérez at Hock­en­heim, for in­stance – but team in­sid­ers speak in glow­ing terms of his sheer pace, en­thu­si­asm, and me­thod­i­cal ap­proach to rac­ing.

So there’s more to Daniil Kvyat than meets the eye, hence our Ma­tryoshka dolls and the slightly un­usual ques­tions con­tained within…

What’s with the skip­ping?

DK: Ah… that was you guys, wasn’t it? [Many driv­ers have a rou­tine to get ‘in the zone’ be­fore a track ses­sion; Nico Ros­berg, for in­stance, plays keepy uppy with a foot­ball. F1 Rac­ing found Daniil skip­ping be­hind the Toro Rosso garage in Hock­en­heim, but he bash­fully asked us not to take a photo be­cause “I’m not very good at it yet.”] Well I’m grow­ing in skills, so I can do it on one leg now for a long time. Yeah, it’s a good ex­er­cise and I like it, es­pe­cially be­fore qual­i­fy­ing and the race – you get your heart rate up and it helps you fo­cus. Pyry [Salmela, his trainer] sug­gested do­ing it.

Rank the four lan­guages you speak in or­der of how of­ten you use them.

DK: Hey, that’s a tough ques­tion! Let me think about it… I speak Ital­ian with many friends and I speak it when I’m in Italy; I speak English with my trainer, and we spend a lot of time to­gether; and I speak Rus­sian, ob­vi­ously, with my fam­ily. So I’d say I speak those lan­guages 30 per­cent each of the time. Then maybe 10 per cent of the time I speak Span­ish.

F1R: Rus­sian is a very com­plex lan­guage for an out­sider to learn – all those dif­fer­ent cases for nouns. Does mas­ter­ing the gram­mar as a na­tive speaker help with learn­ing other lan­guages?

DK: I think it helps in a way, but I found English gram­mar wasn’t easy to learn at the be­gin­ning. I don’t think I speak per­fect English. I started learn­ing it at school, in rst grade, but you reach a point where with­out prac­tice you can’t go for­ward – you can speak English with your teacher, but you’re do­ing it maybe twice a week for an hour. So it gave me a good base­line, but to get to a de­cent level in a lan­guage you need to prac­tice reg­u­larly, and I got much bet­ter when I started rac­ing sin­gle-seaters. And I’m liv­ing in Eng­land now, in Mil­ton Keynes. F1R: Do you get recog­nised on the street? DK: Some­times. Not so much be­fore, but since Sil­ver­stone it’s hap­pened a cou­ple of times. It’s quite nice ac­tu­ally!

What’s the clos­est you’ve been to a bust-up with Dr Marko?

DK: Bust-up means ght, yeah? Ac­tu­ally he’s not a bust-up type of guy. But he can have some tough words, which is fair enough. In my rst ever race in the Red Bull ju­nior pro­gramme, that was the clos­est we got – I had a few warn­ings! I had dif­fi­cul­ties adapt­ing to a big car, com­ing from kart­ing. After one race at Sil­ver­stone [in For­mula BMW] I was told I was a bit slow – I needed to push a bit more or I wouldn’t be in the pro­gramme very long! At the next race week­end I nished P4 ahead of my team-mate Car­los Sainz Jr, so that was okay. But Dr Marko al­ways tells you when you’re do­ing a good job as well as when you’re do­ing a bad job – and that’s some­thing I should ap­pre­ci­ate and not crit­i­cise.

Have you stopped grow­ing yet?

DK: [Laughs] This is also a ques­tion Dr Marko asks me! Did he write this one? [ Dur­ing his teens, Daniil shot up by nine inches in one year, caus­ing him great dif­fi­culty in co-or­di­nat­ing his body move­ments – his brain, in ef­fect, didn’t know how tall he was] I know some peo­ple keep grow­ing un­til they’re 25 years old, but my height is 182cm now and I think I’ve stopped for a while. That’s as tall as David Coulthard, who was in For­mula 1 a long time and was very com­pet­i­tive. I don’t think I’ll end up any taller than 184cm, which is the same as Mark Web­ber. I was talk­ing to him about it – he had a long and suc­cess­ful ca­reer in For­mula 1 so I’m not too wor­ried about it.

Rate your per­for­mance so far this year out of ten.

DK: Hmm. I’d say… Well, I don’t re­ally like to judge my­self, but… I’d say be­tween six and eight. It’s easy to look back now at the start of the year and to say maybe I could have done some things a lit­tle bet­ter, be­cause I was very in­ex­pe­ri­enced then. The team have been push­ing hard at ev­ery race, fo­cus­ing on our own business, to do the best job we can. And I think it’s been work­ing very well, es­pe­cially the last few races.

F1R: Do you think you’re go­ing to have some pain in the last quar­ter of the sea­son? You’ve al­ready gone through a lot of power unit com­po­nents, so penal­ties are on the way.

DK: Yeah, I’m not in an op­ti­mal po­si­tion, to be hon­est. I’ll have to be bit more care­ful, which means slightly less per­for­mance in some places, but that’s life – we’ll just look for­ward, we know it’s go­ing to hap­pen at some point. We just have to min­imise the dam­age. If it’s at a race where we have re­ally good pace I’ll be dis­ap­pointed, but at least we’re not ght­ing for the cham­pi­onship.

“I’ll have to be more care­ful, which means slightly less per­for­mance”

How of­ten would you say you ac­tu­ally drink Red Bull?

DK: I like the taste of it, but it’s a party drink for me. Those very few times when I’ve been at a party, I might have mixed it with some­thing. F1R: What­ever could that be? DK: Ha ha! Well I al­low my­self a cou­ple of drinks some­times, but just a small amount. Cer­tainly noth­ing that af­fects my per­for­mance and def­i­nitely not be­fore get­ting in the car! We’re down to the tini­est doll. Daniil twists it ten­ta­tively, to see if another one lurks within. “All done, huh?” Swiftly but me­thod­i­cally he re­assem­bles them, brow fur­rowed, then sets the com­pleted doll on the ta­ble. “Thanks,” he says. “That was fun – if a lit­tle crazy…”

Daniil’s fourth re­tire­ment of 2014 in Mon­tréal: “I’d rate my­self be­tween six and eight out of ten”

Danill with Dr Marko: “He’s not a bust-up type of guy… but he can have some tough words”

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