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…


Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat tack­les the thorny sub­ject of his de­mo­tion

While Daniil Kvyat is be­ing ush­ered from the back of the Toro Rosso garage, he reects 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 nished his rst 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 – justication 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 shufe them in front of his eyes. We’re denitely not hid­ing the tricky ones un­til the end…

Happy with that, he’s ready to pounce on the rst one. Then our shufing spec­tac­u­larly backres 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 ow 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 rst 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 rst 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 condence 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 lls a wa­ter bot­tle cap full of wa­ter and icks it at his trainer,


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 ght 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… nd out who on page 54!] 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 inuenced 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 ows straight away and you don’t par­tic­u­larly need any time for it to de­velop. You some­times nd 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, nd 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 nd a mu­tu­ally agree­able ap­proach: I think we’ve done well. By the end of last sea­son, we hadn’t had any real difcul­ties 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…

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