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Exclusive Daniil Kvyat Q&A: I've set myself a high benchmark

28 Mar 2014

McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen was the highest scoring rookie at Melbourne’s season opener, but Daniil Kvyat’s performance - qualifying eighth and finishing ninth - was arguably just as impressive given the relative pace of his Toro Rosso machinery. Kvyat admits he’s set himself a high standard, but also insists he’s up to the challenge of maintaining - and beating - that standard. We spoke to the Russian after his P14 showing in Friday practice at Sepang…

Q: Daniil, your first race and you not only make it into Q3, you also make it into the points. Can it get any better?

Daniil Kvyat: It should - we are working very hard to make it happen. All the progress that we make will be good for our performance and to bag even more points. Yes, it felt like a good achievement for me personally - it was not too bad for my first race - and I hope that it goes on that way. I can’t wait for more. Of course, as a rookie you have to work twice as hard as the others - and I am more than willing to do so.

Q: Can you talk us through that first F1 race?

DK: The real heart pounder was before the race - at the start. That was when I was really nervous. Don’t forget it was my first start. This Sunday I will be much more relaxed. But back to Melbourne: I managed to dive through the first corner - and as a rookie going into your first race that means you’re almost there. (laughs) From then on we pretty much could do our own race. The only downer was that when the safety car came out we missed going into the pits by something like five seconds - Jenson Button behind me managed to pit and when coming out he gained some positions. I wouldn’t say that we could have finished ahead of him, but probably ahead of Kimi (Raikkonen).

Q: Did it help that the other guys - however long they might have competed in F1 racing - were as clueless as you going into that race weekend in terms of the new regs and cars?

DK: There could be a small truth in that, but only a small one because F1 is also about experience - you cannot neglect that entirely. Sure, the advice I was given was to focus on my own race and not get involved in any fights - and it paid off: it did bring us some points.

Q: Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost is known to be hard on his drivers - some would even say severe - but his success has proved him right. How has he worked with you over the winter?

DK: Ah, Franz is a typical Austrian person who wants his drivers to work very hard. You have to be very disciplined with him. And that is what I am trying to be. So he hasn’t been ‘severe’ to me. (laughs)

Q: Franz is looking for that certain surprise that a driver can deliver - against all odds. Was Melbourne that surprise? Was he satisfied with you?

DK: I think he was quite satisfied with me in Melbourne. But I have also put the benchmark for myself very high. So if you get into the points in your first race, you sure want more in the future. I would love the idea of finishing high up in the standings at the end of the season.

Q: Your team mate is in his third season and there was very little difference between the two of you. Are you that good?

DK: We were almost battling in the last few laps - and then we had some miscommunication which caused me to stay behind him - so yes, it was pretty close between the two of us. It was my first race and I cannot promise that it will stay that way, but at least it is my plan to try and move in front of him.

Q: That sounds like a good portion of self-confidence…

DK: …I hope so! (laughs)

Q: Your career has progressed at race speed. Can your personal development keep up with that pace? You are still not 20 years old…

DK: You mean that my personality might get lost along the way? Sure it is sometimes hard to keep a cool head when success comes, but I haven’t had that much success yet that this might be the case. At the moment everything seems okay with me. I try to block out anything that is not related to my performance - and so far so good.

Q: So far we know very little about you. Can you tell us what motivates you, where you see your biggest talents - and weaknesses - and what would qualify you for the title?

DK: That motivation was never a problem for me. I have dedicated my whole life to one thing - racing - and I have come too far so there is no backing out anymore. So I try to be at my best.

Q: History has shown that it’s not always the fastest driver that wins the trophy - that there is more to it than just a lead foot. Are you a political person?

DK: That all depends on the situation in the team. If somebody wants to play, well then I will be prepared to react. If everything is calm in the team I will never be the one to start turmoil. In the end politics only bring mess to the team and you might miss out on your results.

Q: Sailing on the tailwind of the good Melbourne performance - team and driver alike - what’s the plan for your second F1 race? How did it go today?

DK: We had good reliability so there is no reason why it should change this weekend. In terms of pace there is still something more to come from Renault’s side - so let’s see. What is very clear is that there is no more room for mistakes. This afternoon I was not completely satisfied with the set-up of the car so very likely it will be a long evening session tonight for all of us to get us in a better position tomorrow, even though qualifying is far less important than it was before. Today you can start from P11 and still have a great race, as it’s all about reliability and strategy. In the past when you started from P1 it was almost a certain race win. These times are gone.