This is probably not Daniil Kvyat’s favourite Formula 1 season following his demotion from Red Bull and the struggle to re-adapt to his old team. Despite all the chaotic times this year the Russian hasn’t lost his motivation and remains determined to show that he still has plenty to offer on track. F1Zone.net sat down with the Toro Rosso driver to find out how he got over the swap saga and if the re-integration is heading into the right direction.
It is not a secret to anyone that Kvyat has struggled to find a new rhythm in the STR11, though he gets substantial support needed from the team that he represented during the 2014 season. “We certainly have good feelings about each other and I’ve been trying to be as much supportive to the team as I can be,” he explains to F1Zone.net. "I could obviously bring them quite a lot of different interesting information as I’ve been around [Red Bull] this one year and a half."
“On the other hand the team understands how complicated this situation became for me a couple of months ago and they are very supportive. They really want to help me, which I think is very nice because when you join a team in the middle of the season you want to have their support. There are many people here with whom I have a very good relationship and I’ve always trusted Toro Rosso and I want to give my absolute everything to them because they deserve it.”
The former GP3 champion reckons it is not easy to adapt the brain from racing one car to another and the meagre two points he has scored with Toro Rosso since - compared to his team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr.'s 26 points - stands proof of it.
“You might say [Toro Rosso] is a slower car, in some circumstances, some corners yes, but at the beginning of the year they had a fantastic package. Red Bull reached an optimal level of the chassis so of course I had to reset my references a little bit ongoing this process. Generally, it’s never easy because you need to adapt yourself to a different car behaviour in corners and you have to find new references.
“For sure there are races after which I feel a bit down due to frustrations but sometimes I’m helpless because I have to accept that the car is new for me, the team and the engineers the same and we just have to accept together that we are a bit off the pace. It’s not easy for me as I always want to win but also at Red Bull it wasn’t easy to accept when Toro Rosso was faster. But this is life and I always find my way to stand up.”
“No one can delete the past and the past was a good one for me in Formula 1”
Kvyat and Max Verstappen swapped seats following a difficult Russian Grand Prix, in which the local driver twice struck Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap. Kvyat attended the very first FIA’s Press Conference after Red Bull announced the switch as he felt that was the right thing to do.
“There were some very chaotic few days and I remember some talks going on that maybe people think I’m weak and depressed but I wasn’t and I really had something to say so when they asked if I’m ok to join [the press conference] I said yes. I believe it’s the right thing to stand up for your rights, especially after the way that everything happened. I wanted to show that I am not all right with that and I think I managed quite well and didn’t offend anyone.”
Before the official announcement there were rumours regarding a possible switch but the Russian driver didn’t think, not even for a second, those might actually be true. “The media made some comments about this but I couldn’t imagine they were more than rumours. I could never see this [the swap] happening.”
“There were days back in 2014 when they [Red Bull] had similar feelings for me. For that time with Toro Rosso I was doing what they thought was an extraordinary job so they promoted me because of that. At Red Bull Racing, in 2015, everyone expected that it was going to be another Championship title but the magic didn’t happen. Toro Rosso was faster than Red Bull in 2015 so that had an impact on the general image and sometimes the general imagine is everything and that can make people blind,” he explained.
“In 2015 I had some fantastic races but they went unnoticed because they were only P6 or P7. Sometimes this is the way it goes but that’s part of the past now and I am focused on the present which is quite kind and I still think that the future can open up very nice.”
Kvyat didn’t take his move back to Toro Rosso as a downgrade and believes he has nothing to prove to anybody now more than he had before this episode. “I know my value and many people know it as well but we live in a world where unfortunately we depend on the opinion of other people. I will do my job and it’s usually been convincing enough so I will stick with doing this and then we’ll see what other people think.
“I’ve always seen opportunity in everything and I believe some great opportunities will come out of this too and the timing might be quite good. It’s up to me now to make the best out of this situation. No one can delete the past and the past was a good one for me in Formula 1.”
From the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat
On his debut in Australia two years ago Kvyat broke Sebastian Vettel’s record as the youngest points-scorer in Formula 1. The next year he became the second youngest driver to record a podium finish and this year he scored Red Bull’s first podium. Will he be remembered for these results or will his name be related only to the negatives of 2016?
“Generally there was not much negative happening. It was Red Bull’s decision so it was up to them but other than that I think taking one incident for negative is a bit too much because if you look around the Mercedes drivers had a crash, Ferrari drivers had a crash and no one had to replace anyone because of that so I think some people were a bit over sensitive with some things.
“I’ve done everything I could do from a results point of view with Red Bull Racing in the worst shape of their history and as soon as the shape started to be decent there was this swap so I think there is a lot more behind it. Maybe I didn’t come out as a winner out of this whole situation until now but let’s see what the future will bring.”
Kvyat finished in front of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in his first season at Red Bull and predicts he would have had a good year if were to stay with the team. “I always gave to the team what they were after. It was a similar situation this year like in 2015 having not an easy start of the season but then it started to get better and better, even earlier than last year. I believe I was on for another strong season. I was getting more and more confident with the car as the season was moving on and I think would have been able to score quite more points.”
The Russian was promoted to Red Bull after only one year at Toro Rosso, a move that was considered too early at that time. “There were some things not easy for me to adapt to but that’s maybe because the expectations were pretty high from each other and it wasn’t easy to move on and accept the actual situation,” he added.
“The 2015 season was very difficult for Red Bull and I ended up being the one supporting the team in some really hard times, a situation which I was completely fine with as I thought we would grow together and build something together. But it was taken away from me."