In January 2005, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat made his professional debut in motorsports, winning his very first race in Sochi, Russia. During the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Kvyat participated in local events, including the Russian karting championship and cup as well as in the occasional races in Italy. Consistently demonstrating strong performances, he moved to Italy to fully concentrate on racing in one of the most competitive environments. Kvyat’s first professional team in Italy was Franco Pellegrini’s crew. From then on, it was nowhere to go but up, taking Daniil to Formula BWM, Toyota Racing Series, Formula Renault, GP3, European Formula 3, and finally Formula 1. Today Daniil Kvyat has a contract with Toro Rosso for 2020. We at Paddock magazine sat down to talk to him about the results of the 2019 season and his interests moving forward.
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Daniil, a pleasure to talk to you. Could you tell us how your year was after the return to Toro Rosso?
A pleasure for me too. I’m certainly happy about 2019. It didn’t go badly at all [laughs]. There were many good moments, many great races, many dramatic twists, and the results haven’t failed us either. It’s been a pretty strong season, in my opinion.
What did that gap year give you?
I was able to look at the situation from many different perspectives, and I value that experience very much. Additionally, I had the chance to rest mentally and morally, to make a reboot, even if it was a brief one. Things like that are also extremely important in an intense sport like Formula 1. Thankfully, I came back fresh and relaxed, ready for 2020.
During the German Grand Prix of 2019, your daughter was born! Congratulations! And you took 3rd place that weekend as well. So how was it? What did it all feel like?
Yes, there were many emotions flying around that day. Such moments are very rare in life. It was great to be back on the podium, for sure. And it was a special podium for our team, for Toro Rosso. Yes, an overall great and superb day. I was so happy I could barely control myself [smiles].
After that race, can you now say that on a wet track you feel way more confident?
Actually, I still wouldn’t say that. Wet races are always a bit harder for me as well, because the grip with asphalt is tricky, so it is much easier to make a mistake. But, as you said, I was pretty comfortable that day. It definitely wasn’t an easy race, however, we had prepared well for it, so that gave me a lot of confidence that I used on the track.
I think 2019 was one of the most successful years for the team, so I’m very happy that I was a part of this season. Yes, there were many excellent results. A lot of points and a good position in the Constructors’ Championship.
Was this a successful season for Toro Rosso in terms of the goals your team had before the start of 2019?
Sure, we took 6th place as constructors, and that’s a solid result for Toro Rosso. I think 2019 was one of the most successful years for the team, so I’m very happy that I was a part of this year. It’s good to be back [smiles].
You worked with many drivers in different teams over the years in Formula 1. Which of the drivers was the most pleasant to work with?
It’s hard to say, actually, I don’t really know. I felt quite comfortable to work with all of them. Probably the one with a more similar sense of humour to mine is Alex Albon [laughs]. Sometimes it was more fun with him. But I have very similar vibes with all of my teammates. We rarely see each other during the weekend, to tell you the truth, so we don’t communicate that much, because we have a very busy schedule during Formula 1 GPs.
Tell us your take on the winter pause. Are skills lost when Formula 1 goes on a break after the season ends, given that tests are conducted twice a year?
The number of tests is actually too small, that’s absolutely right. The first day of tests, it’s always a little out of the ordinary, but then you get used to it pretty quickly. On the second day, already you feel a lot more natural in the car. So I wouldn’t say we as Formula 1 drivers lose our skills that much, but it’d be nicer to have a few more testing days just to get that feeling of confidence and keep it longer.
In 2021, the weekend will be reduced to three days – Thursday will not be a media day anymore. And the number of free practice sessions will decrease. What do you think about that?
Well, I think that will be enough. We have to remember that there will be more races. So the calendar will be tight. Every single day will be useful for the drivers, and we know how to exploit the opportunities given to us.
At the moment, one of the most important – some say even crucial – components of Formula 1 is the media. Almost all of the current Formula 1 drivers have a strong social media presence. Has it really changed all that much, in your opinion?
Yes, it’s such a big part of Formula 1 today. We spend a lot of time at events and talking to journalists. Good or bad, it’s part of the job, we have to take it all in. I’m certainly not complaining since it’s also a great way to interact with the public and make the sport interesting for sincere fans as well as new spectators.
I was engaged in many sports, such as football and skiing. I’m doing boxing now. I think if you really focus on it, you could become quite successful in any of them; and if you work hard, that is.
What do you think about the environmental programme of Formula 1 for 2030?
I think it’s important that Formula 1 is part of that process – a global sport like that should be ahead in terms of these matters. However, this is a tricky issue, so we as Formula 1 professionals have to work hard to show the people what has already been done in the sport, and we have to be vocal and honest about the environmental side of it all.
I completely agree – the sport needs to be more vocal about the improvements already made. Talking about the racing itself, what would you say is your favourite Grand Prix?
If we were to talk about where it all takes place, perhaps I’d pick Montreal. I also love Austin. Cities like that are very fun. I like Melbourne in Australia too, so apparently I can’t really choose a favourite [laughs].
Formula 1 Grands Prix will be held in the Netherlands and Vietnam in 2020 – any thoughts on these two locations for high-end racing?
I’ve been on the track in Holland. Zandvoort is a very good track. I have not been to Vietnam, but I think that if it’s an urban track, things will be similar to Baku, and I enjoyed that.
Flights between Formula 1 countries sometimes take a very long time. What do you do during a long flight?
I watch movies, listen to music, sleep, and read. Simple as that [smiles].
May I ask what kind of music do you like to listen to?
Sure, I have a big selection of tunes I love. I pick playlists from the 1970s, 1980s, also something more modern, Spanish, Italian, and Russian. It actually all depends on the mood, I like to mix it up.
Great answer. As far as I know, you speak four languages, right? Are you learning any languages at the moment, for example, Portuguese?
Yes, that’s correct. Since I spend a lot of time in Brazil with my family, I’m beginning to understand Portuguese a little better. I’ve always enjoyed adding a new language to my roster.
Final question, Daniil – if it wasn’t Formula 1 or racing overall for that matter, where, do you think, would you end up?
I’m not totally sure since the answer to that might get very complicated [laughs]. I was actually engaged in many sports, such as football and skiing. I’m doing boxing now. I think if you really focus on it, you could become quite successful in any of them; and if you work hard, that is. I’m definitely glad I ended up in Formula 1 for the moment, so I’ll do the best job I possibly can here.
Thanks so much for the talk, Daniil, and the best of luck in 2020!
Yes, thank you. See you in the paddock!