Oleg Karpov
"DANIIL KVYAT. PATH TO F1"


CHAPTER 3
«THE MUNDIAL»
This text is a fragment of the original chapter of the book.

Bronze in the European championship was just the start of a long journey. Over the next few months, Morsicani Racing driver Daniil Kvyat was winning almost every tournament that he took part in.

The team managed to build a great kart thanks to its driver's ability to do test work. "That we understood already in Varennes," says Piero Saponaro. "Before the start of the race we made some changes, and he needed just one install lap to let us know that we achieved what we wanted. He drove past and gave a thumbs up, telling us that the kart was behaving better. In the next few months Daniil would show that ability many times. He always appreciated our work and the changes we made to the machinery."

In October 2008, Kvyat won the European final of the Bridgestone Cup, beating de Vries in the final race. The prize was an invitation to Formula 1 testing in Barcelona the following winter – as a guest. Two weeks later came victory in the Silver Cup at La Conca, and the end of November brought a slight "misfire" in the Macau competition: in the final race of the Asia-Pacific Championship, Kvyat had to start last, but in the end he still managed to finish second, losing out only to Carlos Sainz, who had lined up on pole.

As he got older, Daniil was more often left all by himself. His parents tried to take turns coming to Rome, but often neither could get to Italy, and after some of the races Daniil would go with Morsicani to Latina.

Angelo Morsicani:

"I can't say a single bad word about Daniil. I don't think anyone can, but for me he's a family member, in a sense. He lived in my house, spent time with my kids and those closest to me. It was hard to see him as a sportsman, because he was like my son. I got to know him at a tender age, 13-15, when children don't yet really know how to lie, when they communicate not for something, but because they're interested.

"He was a normal teenager. Sometimes he'd fool around, but he was also very self-reliant. When he and Slava first came to me, I was a bit surprised that Daniil was speaking to me by himself, without translating anything for his father. He made the decisions himself, without hints – as he did in everyday life, too. This was a kid who in the middle of a conversation could stand up and say something like: 'Okay, I have to go, I need to pay for my flat.' Others his age couldn't go a day without their parents, and he would go weeks without seeing them. His father was often busy in Russia, and when he was, Daniil stayed at my house. Most important, he hasn't changed a bit since then. We once met when he was already a Formula 1 driver. Stood around talking, and then he said: 'Okay, I have to work.'

The one thing I can fault him for is that he doesn't keep his promises. When he was racing for me, he often told me: 'I get to Formula 1, I'll buy you a Bentley.' I reminded him on that later, and he answered: 'Angelo, I was very small I was very small still, I didn't understand anything.' But I'm fine even without the Bentley – and I'm just happy it worked out for him.'

Saponaro also has a story about Kvyat "not keeping promises". "Daniil was always with us," Piero recalls. 'So our relationship went beyond 'driver-mechanic'. My girlfriend often made him coffee. He refused to go to a bar, only wanted to drink coffee made on our stove. He often said: 'Piero, your trailer's too old. When I get to Formula 1, I'll buy you a new one.' Still hasn't...

"Working together was euphoria for both of us. Many in karting work with kids not because of the money, but just because they can't live without it. It's a passion, we enjoy every race, and with Daniil we also understood that we could achieve a lot. There was a time when he was finishing only first or second for a few months, we were collecting trophies one after the other. I remember there was a very prestigious competition in Parma, Trofeo delle Industrie, its last edition on the old track. Daniil won both races, Saturday and Sunday. We got great prizes: new wheels and parmesan!"

Svetlana Ignatiuk, a friend of the family, helped the Kvyats settle in in Italy and often also looked after Daniil, when he was alone in Rome. A school teacher, she gave him lessons in Italian and other subjects from the school curriculum – but Kvyat Jr. was learning the language much better via talking to the mechanics. She recalls: "He just loved those guys. It was his crew, and it meant a lot with him. He was spending day after day with them, and he'd stay the night in Latina because you couldn't keep driving there from Rome. Sometimes the parents couldn't come, their visas ran out or something else came up – business, work – but he was, of course, never all by himself. He was either with the mechanics or with me.

"Italian, at first, wasn't going easy. For some time I helped him with the lessons, we'd do them together because he was still struggling to read in it. But he memorised everything instantly. His school was a prestigious one, in the centre of Rome. They taught very beautiful Italian there – the language of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio. And it all went great, he was picking it up on the fly, but then he would go back to that very same Latina. And from there he came back a different person: speaking in a local dialect and a ton of swear words. But, of course, very happy and content."

The winning march across Italian tracks continued through the winter and early spring of 2009. The goals for the season were crystal clear. Kvyat and Morsicani wanted to win the seven-round WSK championship, which had on its schedule four races in Italy and the other three in Belgium, France and Spain. They also wanted to win the world championship – the big final in Sarno was to take place on the first weekend of September.

The first WSK round in early February ended in a de Vries victory. He and Kvyat fought for the entirety of the main race, until on the last lap de Vries edged ahead to the finish line. But Daniil got his revenge in full over the next three races. At the end of February, he won the Winter Cup in Lonato. Then, at round two of the WSK at Sarno, in early March, de Vries didn't make it to the finish – and Kvyat, having won the race, was now leading the drivers' championship, and with a decent margin to boot. Another duel was won two weeks later at Castelletto: Kvyat beat de Vries in the final race of the prestigious Trofeo Andrea Margutti. But it was the Sarno race that had best demonstrated how strong the Kvyat – Morsicani connection was.

For Daniil and his team, qualifying for the second WSK round had gone pear-shaped. Kvyat was disqualified for a burnt clutch and, in a list of almost 80 surnames, he was dead last. That meant that Daniil could only end up among the 34 finalists by making several overtakes during the preliminary heats. In each heat, he had to start last – but that didn't stop him from winning.

Daniil Kvyat:
"In qualifying we were simply out of our element. First it started to rain and we couldn't find the right set-up. Then the clutch burned out, and in karting that usually gets you disqualified right away. So I was 78th and started each qualifying race last. But we were still confident in ourselves, simply because we were much quicker than anyone else on sheer pace. I finished the heats in third, fifth, seventh, each time fighting through from the last row. Couple of times I was out of luck. In one of the heats I couldn't fight through, in another I had a small crash on the penultimate lap. But we made the pre-final in 25th place, having been 78th in qualifying.

"In the pre-final it was important to make up as much ground as possible, because only the top drivers were left in contention, and you didn't want to give the leaders a head start. It was one of those races where you're fighting in almost every corner. Already after the first lap I was 12th and then I started to overtake the rest. Every time through resistance, through contact. After that race we had to throw out the sidepods, the front bumper, the rear bumper, because there were collisions with almost every rival. But most importantly the job was done: I climbed to third place, ensuring a good starting spot for the final.

"By that point many had caught up to us in terms of sheer pace – after all, everybody had gone through qualifying and several heats. Three or four drivers already could take us on. It was a four-way battle for victory: myself, Raffaele Marciello, Carlos and another Spaniard, Gerard Barrabeig. I took the lead right away, but they were putting pressure on me, and at one point I was back to third again. Carlos was hanging on in fourth. Then I saw that the pair ahead started to battle, and I passed one, and then the other. They continued to throw down, soon joined by Carlos, and thanks to that I soon pulled away by about 50 metres, which was enough for victory in the end. Carlos' speed in the final was even better, so when he dealt with the other two, he started to catch up fast. Thankfully for us, the chequered flag came soon. So, having been last in qualifying, we still ended up winning the race. We couldn't believe it."

Kvyat's form at Sarno should have been especially worrying for his rivals, because that was the track that was due to host the world championship.
Kvyat's performances didn't go unnoticed in Russia. Soon, Daniil had his first real sponsor – in April the Russian Morsicani driver's kart had Lukoil branding, and at approximately the same time he started to catch the eye of Red Bull. Evgeniy Malinovskiy, head of Lukoil's racing programme, had already been working with Helmut Marko for several years. The company provided support for Red Bull junior member Mikhail Aleshin, and they often crossed paths during races. Some time later Aleshin found himself among the ranks of drivers who hadn't lived up to Marko's expectations, but Malinovskiy already had a replacement to offer.

"Back then we had our own programme for supporting young Russian drivers," he recalls. "And I was constantly getting information about Kvyat. We had a kids' team, so we were up to date with karting results, so we helped him out a bit financially at the start of his career. Then we sent him the right way – to Red Bull."

Malinovskiy namechecked Kvyat in discussions with Marko, and he wasn't the only one to do so. The Russian driver winning competition after competition was talked about by many, among them Eurointernational team boss Antonio Ferrari, whose elder brother Alessandro had issued Kvyat the Italian race license shortly after his move.

EuroInternational started working with Red Bull in North American Formula BWM categories, and then continued to compete successfully in Europe. Ferrari, from time to time, looked into who the most talented karting drivers were, as his team was in one of the most appropriate championships for young drivers moving from karts to cars. Alessandro, who was a steward at the most prestigious competitions, would help draw his brother's attention to the best.

"Usually during the season I always tell Antonio, which drivers are potentially ready for a move up to formula racing," Alessandro says. "Of course, I only recommend him the best, so in 2009 I advised him to take a look at Daniil Kvyat.

"At the same time, Antonio was also told to keep an eye out for Carlos Sainz. They were well-acquainted with Daniel Juncadella, who drove for Antonio's team in Formula BMW Europe, and a test was eventually arranged.

"Soon, Antonio told Dr. Marko of Kvyat. Marko, as it turned out, was already aware of Daniil, thanks to WSK boss Luca De Donno. In the end Marko decided, that Kvyat should get a Formula BMW test with Eurointernational. And that's, in essence, how it all began."
Many refer to that time as the golden age of European karting. As many as four drivers from the KF3 class were on the radar of officials from Formula 1 teams – the drivers who were battling it out for wins and podiums.

As racing journalist Michele Benso remembers it: "There were four of them: Daniil Kvyat, Raffaele Marciello, Nyck de Vries and Carlos Sainz. Every time they were fighting basically only among themselves. I remember how Intrepid team boss Mirko Sguerzoni introduced me to Ferrari's Luca Baldisserri: "This is Michele Benso, he will help you pick a driver for the Ferrari Academy." They were first looking at de Vries, but he went to McLaren. And Red Bull had secured Carlos and Dany, so Ferrari in the end signed Marciello."

Meanwhile, Kvyat's gap over his rivals in karting was gradually evaporating. Other teams started to gain ground, while at Morsicani Kvyat was no longer the sole driver. The winning streak did not go unnoticed – other drivers turned to Morsicani and soon Kvyat wasn't alone in the Morsicani Racing tent anymore. But he was still relied on as team leader, and the goal to win September's world championship hadn't gone anywhere. In addition, Daniil remained the favourite in WSK. Round three at Castelletto was won by de Vries, but Daniil finished fourth, maintaining a solid advantage heading into a two-month pause in the schedule.

"Around midway through the year everything began to change," Kvyat himself recalls. "We lost our advantage a bit. Rivals began to find solutions, get closer and closer to us, and the atmosphere became a little tense.

"In moments like these, everyone probably gets stray thoughts – about where it might be better, warmer. I started to look around, consider other options. Angelo also had his temptations. There were more and more drivers in the team, business was up, and maintaining the same focus in these conditions was difficult.

"The energy that we had amassed during several victory-filled months was gradually disappearing, but we still should've had enough for September. We did well in the European championship in July: I was again third, although this time it wasn't a success. It was the minimum of what we hoped for. In addition, ahead of me were Nyck and Carlos.

"On my end, there was the start of the Formula BMW story. It was a new world for me, new interests. So both of us, myself and Angelo, were going through a change in priorities."
Original author's orthography is preserved.