Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat tackles the thorny subject of his demotion
The Toro Rosso racer is in good spirits and happy to discuss his new love of backgammon, his romance with a triple world champion’s daughter and heavy metal. But then there’s the matter of being dropped by Red Bull…
While Daniil Kvyat is being ushered from the back of the Toro Rosso garage, he reflects on the last time he sat down to answer our readers’ questions. It was at the end of the 2014 season, in the dusk of the Abu Dhabi paddock, when he’d just finished his first year with Toro Rosso. Back then he was a burgeoning young racer with a bright future. Ahead of him lay the promised land of a drive with the senior Red Bull team – justification for a man of his obvious talents. That promotion duly came in 2015, but was followed a year and a bit later with the very public demotion to Toro Rosso when he was replaced by Max Verstappen.
Mark Webber once remarked that the order of these question cards is deliberately arranged. Start with the easy ones and then make them increasingly harder. Well, the truth is that they appear in random order. To prove this to Daniil, we shuffle them in front of his eyes. We’re definitely not hiding the tricky ones until the end…
Happy with that, he’s ready to pounce on the first one. Then our shuffling spectacularly backfires and Daniil’s cheery demeanour fades: the dreaded demotion comes straight to the top of the pile.
“Oof!” he says, gutted. “First question, straight away…”
How did you manage to get your mind in the right place after your move back to Toro Rosso? Samarth Shah, India
Nothing in the mind so much. Not when you’re in that situation: you just have to go with the flow and adjust to basically move ahead, do your job and drive the car. That’s all I could do.
F1R: [We attempt to help Daniil out a bit, given the awkwardness of the first question.] Positive thoughts? DK: It wasn’t easy to have positive thoughts at the time, but now I’m full of positive thoughts, so it’s all okay to me now. It seems like something that happened a long time ago and it doesn’t really bother me any more. [Let’s swiftly move on…]
How did you and Kelly Piquet meet? And have you had any tips from her dad, Nelson? Anna Hunt, UK
We met in Monaco during our vacation in August last year. We both had a very positive vibe with each other straight away, so I knew that I wanted to share something more than just
knowing her. That was mutual, luckily. I haven’t had the chance to chat with her dad, even though I would love to as he’s a legendary driver. Kelly knows a lot about racing, obviously, the history and what’s going on today.
You recently got a backgammon set for your birthday, but what is your favourite gift you’ve ever received? Fern Lock, UK
The backgammon set is one of the best gifts I’ve had. The board I got was from my father and I learned how to play it. My first teacher was Bernie [Ecclestone, a player of some repute since the 1970s]: he explained to me the basics at the Russian GP one year. But now I play a lot with Kelly. We travel a lot, so the one my father gave to me is very nice but at home. We take a travel backgammon board that lives in the hotel room.
F1R: What is the secret to winning? DK: You know, there is a luck factor, but what’s good about it is that you also create your own luck. There is a lot of strategy involved in terms of how much risk you will take, where you’re going to move and place your pieces – it’s actually a really interesting game.
F1R: Who normally wins out of you and Kelly? DK: We are quite evenly matched, even though she has ten years more experience playing it than me and I’ve only played it for a couple of months. Actually, last night, I had an incredible win over her and she was very upset. I had to sleep on the sofa… only joking!
Does taking part in the Indy 500 or Le Mans appeal to you? Craig Curtis, UK
At the moment I’m 23 and I’m fully focused on Formula 1. These events are a long way from my mind. Obviously since Fernando Alonso has recently done it, there is a lot of talk about these races now. I think it was a great call for him; it’s something different. It’s like when I was racing Formula 3 and GP3 at the same time; it’s great to have so much confidence when you do so well on both. Formula 1 is a serious thing, it’s 21 races a year and in my case, I can’t take my focus away from it.
I’m more interested in the WRC. It’s a completely different kind of racing and something fresh. I’ve actually tried it: I did some rally testing, a Group B car – it was fantastic, a real adrenaline rush. I also did a proper rally stage in Finland in 2012 on snow with a co-driver and I spoke to Kimi Räikkönen about it. He said that it’s quite a different thing when you have to trust 50 per cent your co-driver and 50 per cent yourself. So maybe one day…
Could you see yourself returning to Red Bull in the future? Sally Davies, UK
You should never say ‘no’ or ‘never’ in life. You still need to drive the car, do your job, and then after you’re done a good job, you stand still for a second, you open your eyes and you see where you can go. If it’s something attractive, then who knows? [Daniil then fills a water bottle cap full of water and flicks it at his trainer,
YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY ‘NO’ OR ‘NEVER’ IN LIFE OPEN YOUR EYES AND SEE WHERE YOU CAN GO NEXT
BEING AT TORO ROSSO MAKES ME ITALIAN EVEN THOUGH I DON’T HAVE ITALIAN BLOOD… THE ITALIAN PASSION“IS GOOD
Pyry Salmela, who is within earshot, but not listening, and who returns the gesture with a bemused glare…] DK: I don’t know this guy. Actually, I just do things like this to random people.
Ufa, your home city in Russia, is home for many ice speedway drivers. Have you ever tried ice speedway? Sebastian Hohne, Germany
[Calls over to his trainer Pyry] Ice speedway is what your father did? [“No”, replies Pyry, adding that speedway is for motorcycles, with spikes on the tyres.] DK: Ahhhh! No, I’ve never tried this. But why not? I’m open minded to these sorts of things.
Nico Hülkenberg said a few years ago that you play tennis together. Who is the better player? Luca Romagnoli, Italy
I play often with Nico in Monaco and it’s always quite a close fight between us because our level is quite similar. Recently I’ve been a bit ahead of him, so he needs to train a bit more. He hasn’t called me for a while, actually not since our last game, because I was quite good. So I think he’s secretly training with some professional [indeed he is… find out who on page 74!] and then I’m sure he’ll call me and try to beat me.
F1R: Is tennis your favourite sport? DK: I like tennis, I like football, squash, ping-pong… there are a few I can do, to be honest. If you work hard at one, you’ll be good at the others. And skiing.
F1R: Do you play against any other drivers? DK: No, but I did once play padel with Daniel Ricciardo in Spain when we stayed at the same hotel, and I’ve played it in Rome before with my friends.
What’s your favourite thing about racing for an Italian team? Chloe Hewitt, UK
My favourite thing is that it makes me Italian, even though I don’t have Italian blood. The mentality and the growing-up process has influenced me so much. I lived in Rome for eight years and raced for many Italian kart teams. I’m 23, so that was a big part of my life. I feel at home here and you can see there is a lot of heart at this team; the Italian passion is good.
How long does it take for the relationship between the engineer and the driver to develop? Charles Pervo, USA
It depends. with some people the relationship flows straight away and you don’t particularly need any time for it to develop. You sometimes find that it’s all quite strong and settled after only one or two races. But then with other people you might need to work a bit more, find out the areas where your opinions differ, and then make compromises so that you’re working towards the same goal. If it isn’t working then you can tell the engineer to eff off – no, I’m joking!
Speaking about the relationship between me and my race engineer, Pierre Hamlin, we were both thrown into a deep ocean because he’d suddenly been promoted to the role of race engineer and I’d just started at Toro Rosso, so we helped each other to adapt and at the same time find a mutually agreeable approach: I think we’ve done well. By the end of last season, we hadn’t had any real difficulties or misunderstandings. We have a good work ethic together, we like it, and we don’t plan to change anything because it’s all good.
I heard you’re a Metallica fan. What do you think about their new album? Andrzej Chrystyniak, Poland
I like their old tunes, but I haven’t listened to their new album yet. I’m also a fan of indie/rock – this type of music. Heavy metal I really like, too. My favourite album is ‘…And Justice for All’.
F1R: We’re not a fan!
Kvyat has bounced back from the bad times and is fully committed to F1. Although he does have an eye on the future…