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Ready to race? Q&As with rookies Kvyat and Magnussen

01 Mar 2014

On Saturday in Bahrain, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen completed their final pre-season runs in their respective cars. The next time they drive in anger will be at Albert Park in Australia. The big question is: are they prepared for their Grand Prix debuts?

Q: Daniil, how important was that day for you today, knowing that the next stop will be Melbourne?

Daniil Kyat: It was a big relief for me and the team - and for Renault. We’ve made a huge step forward and managed to do a good amount of laps today with very positive signs. It gives self-confidence for the future. It was my last test day - and my first proper test day! So yes, it was an important day.

Q: Do you think that you have to learn more in the first races because of your lack of testing mileage?

DK: If you are in a catch-up phase, that’s what you get. Catch-up means hard work unless your rivals make mistakes! And I don’t think that they will do us that favour! (laughs)

Q: All of that sounds as if you’re comfortable with where you are now. Is that so?

DK: In our case, comfortable is the wrong word. As I just said, we are in a catching-up phase so it still takes some time to find the best understanding of car and engine. There is still more to come.

Q: You ran the supersoft tyres today. How was that and can you say anything about the degradation?

DK: First part of the question: I have never run on super soft tyres before - and it felt really good. It had a real fun factor. Regarding the degradation level, I have to say that it is too early for me to make any statements. Last year I didn’t do any long runs on the Friday mornings I had, and based on only one experience I would not be able to make serious statement. All I can say is that it felt ‘normal’, but of course I also have to get used to their behaviour.

Q: How do you have to adapt your driving style to the new conditions?

DK: I have to try and find out. I probably sometimes ‘over push’, but sometimes even mistakes can have a positive side as you learn, and luckily this track has wide run-off zones so nothing happened to the car.

Q: Some people have said that because the cars are new, it’s a level playing field for everybody and probably not such a disadvantage for rookies than in the past - is that so?

DK: I didn’t have any issues with last year’s car - I was immediately up to pace - and it is not a problem now. So a rookie will always have it a bit harder compared to those who have had many years in F1 and have inhaled all the procedures of an F1 race weekend. But that is the least of my concerns. Catching-up as a team is all that matters - and we are getting there.

Q: How do you feel about going to Melbourne without having done a proper race simulation?

DK: That is not a positive, but that is how it is. Again: we had a very successful day today, doing many laps - more than a race distance - so that must be enough for the moment. The next time it won’t be a simulation - it’ll be the real thing - and I am ready for it!

Q: Kevin, six days in the new McLaren - and your next stop will be Melbourne: are you ready?

Kevin Magnussen: I am ready, and I am really looking forward to it. It is a fantastic feeling to know that the next time in the car will be a Grand Prix - and I’m there! Of course I am pretty excited - who wouldn’t be? Of course, there is always the feeling that you could do more and if you had the time you would not stop getting yourself ready - you learn something every day. I believe I have covered all the basics now and the rest will be learning by doing. That’s probably the best - and fastest - way to learn! Right now I feel very comfortable as I think I know what is important and what to focus on in a race weekend. But indeed it is a big job.

Q: How did it go for you today?

KM: Well, we had some electrical problems in the morning, but thank goodness, nothing serious. It was fixed pretty fast and we could go on with the programme, so in the end it was a pretty good day with most of the programme done.

Q: Are there any boxes that you would have liked to have ticked before Melbourne?

KM: Sure. I would have loved to do a qualifying lap on the supersofts - but it was not meant to be. The most important thing is that the team learns as much as possible about the car - and not what I would have loved to do.

Q: What would you say would make your first race a success?

KM: That is a pretty hard question to answer for a rookie! I think even old-timers in F1 wouldn’t be able to answer that question - how should a rookie do that? I don’t set myself a goal saying: I want to beat three, or five or ten. All I know is that I will do my very best and then let’s see what happens. I am somebody who is always aiming very high and have big expectations for myself - so let’s see if I can meet them.

Q: What’s your impression of the MP4-29 after seeing the likes of the Mercedes and the Williams?

KM: It’s true they have been very fast, but my belief is that none of them was in Q3 specification, so in the end it doesn’t mean anything.

Q: Nobody will race the car from Bahrain in Melbourne - they will all have updates. Where do you think more pace could come?

KM: Probably more downforce. It is the main thing in F1. Otherwise the car has a lot of potential. It is as Jenson (Button) said yesterday - much easier to drive. You really can feel that - it feels like a Formula One car should feel. We have a pretty clear route ahead. We know where we want to go and where we can improve.

Q: Is ERS giving you a headache as it has for many of your colleagues?

KM: There is a lot to think about, but I think it is cool having to do so many things in the cockpit. The rhythm of a race has changed completely with all the things that you have to do. It is exciting.

Q: The last time the team has took on a rookie was Lewis Hamilton, so you have pretty big shoes to fill. Is that a worry?

KM: No. The team knows what I am capable of. And for myself: I will push it to the limit.