We caught up with the 20-year-old Red Bull protégé to talk about his chances in Sunday’s race, his season so far, and why nothing can compare to being a Formula One driver…
Q: Daniil, today was a pretty good qualifying session for you…
Daniil Kvyat: Yes it was. We’ve had a pretty good weekend so far where all the pieces have fallen into the right places. The fact is we made a good step forward compared to Friday. It could have been slightly better if the odds had been a bit more in our favour, but nevertheless we are in a good starting position and hopefully can execute that in the race. Scoring points is very high on my agenda! (laughs)
Q: What does this afternoon really mean for tomorrow’s race?
DK: Nothing. We have to go and get it again tomorrow afternoon. It’s just that the odds look more promising…
Q: How satisfied are you with your own performance?
DK: We, as a team, did a pretty good job - we learned our lesson from Friday. So yes, I am pleased about how the team has done - and how I have done. It is true that this track is very much to my liking; it’s sort of ‘old school’ - fast in the right places!
Q: Can it be that you’re the man to put a smile on Red Bull faces?
DK: I will do my best to shine on the track that bears Red Bull’s name.
Q: Looking back, you’ve had a pretty good start to your F1 career, even though you’ve had some bad luck in a few races. Can you talk us through those experiences - the ones that have ruined your stats a bit?
DK: Ha, we couldn’t do anything about those situations - and if we cannot do something about a situation we shouldn’t worry about it. The last races didn’t show our full potential.
Q: In Monaco it was the exhaust, in Canada it was the drivetrain - and team mate Jean-Eric Vergne has faced issues with the unreliability as well. Is development going backwards?
DK: Definitely not. Take Monaco: we definitely could have finished with both cars in the points, but alas it didn’t happen. But that is all in the past. I don’t want to focus on problems from the past, I want to focus on the future - and that is starting on row four tomorrow afternoon.
Q: Issues seem to have been a travel companion of Toro Rosso for quite some time. Either the exhaust or the drivetrain seems to give up prematurely. Why is that so?
DK: Things like that can happen. Look what happened to Mercedes - they also had a retirement in Canada, and they are top team. We are a focused bunch and always try to do our maximum. We always look to the next race and try not to focus on the ones that are in the past.
Q: You are the youngest driver on the grid - do you think that makes it more difficult for you to take defeats than for a driver who has been around for quite some time…
DK: To be honest I don’t think about defeats. I always come to a race with the same fighting spirit - even if the last race was a disappointment. I don’t let that get to me because no matter what happens I am the same person, the same driver - and with the same fighting spirit. I keep on learning with every race - and yes, many races are new experiences. Take Monaco and Canada - both were new tracks to me and both are probably amongst the most tricky tracks there are. I was fast at both - and knowing that is the only thing that really matters.
Q: As a matter of fact you’ve had to get used to quite a number of new tracks - which has been your favourite?
DK: Monaco was very special. It is a high-emotion track.
Q: But here in Austria you are one of the lucky few to know this track - has it helped?
DK: Maybe the first couple of laps. But as I don’t look back I also believe that you can’t count on things from the past. Every driver here is highly professional and knows how to learn a track in the fastest possible time.
Q: Austria must be very important for both Red Bull-backed teams, so it would make sense to bring the biggest upgrade here. Is that so?
DK: Yes, we do have some updates, and of course when you bring something new you always hope that it delivers - and so far it has.
Q: In which areas did you bring new parts?
DK: This season it is about improving the downforce side of the car and trying to make the car more stable in the corners.
Q: So corner speed was an issue before?
DK: Let me put it this way: it is never enough! (laughs) If you can get more - hey, why not!
Q: You have been used to winning in your career - your worst result in the standings at the end of a season is P3. Last year, in GP3, you won the title. So how is it when winning becomes elusive?
DK: Winning is fantastic of course, but there is also huge satisfaction when you know that you did the best with your package - that you drove at the limit. Sometimes a P10 finish can be more satisfying than a P6 finish when you personally had the feeling that you gave it your all.
Q: But it is also true that nothing beats a podium finish…
DK: Of course! But that will come again.
Q: It’s almost mid-season - an important benchmark for a rookie. Are you where you wanted to be?
DK: It’s been going okay so far. For sure, if I could repeat all these races again I would probably do better - but you are always smarter in hindsight. That’s a fact in all situations in life.
Q: Let’s ask bluntly: are you still finding it cool to be in F1?
DK: Of course! I cannot imagine it is better anywhere else.
Q: What has been the best moment so far - and what’s been the most annoying?
DK: It is fantastic to know that you are racing at the top of motor racing. Of course, there have also been frustrating moments, but the thrills beat all those annoying moments - there’s no doubt about it! I tell myself: deal with the frustration as well as you can and move on.
Q: You are still fresh in the paddock so probably have a more unspoiled view on F1: what would you change if you could?
DK: As a driver, I always want a faster car. But right now I am pretty satisfied with what I have. And on the overall situation of F1: I am still too fresh to make comments on this. For me it is simply the most exciting sport in the world. There is no better place to be than in an F1 paddock - I give you my word on that!
Q: Russia will host its first Grand Prix in October and you are the second Russian to drive in F1. Are Russian talents finally coming forward?
DK: We are improving. It will not happen overnight, but the Grand Prix in Sochi is the best thing to support Russian talents.
Q: If you could give your racing compatriots one piece of advice, what would that be?
DK: Work hard and try not to spend too much money.
Q: You’re starting from P7 tomorrow - what are you aiming for?
DK: Points - and the more the better! (laughs)