Oleg Karpov
"DANIIL KVYAT. PATH TO F1"


CHAPTER 4
«SAINZ»
This text is a fragment of the original chapter of the book. Translation by Valentin Khorounzhiy.

For their first season in formula racing, the Red Bull junior programme's new recruits Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz were to race with Eurointernational. Antonio Ferrari's team dominated in 2009 in Formula BMW Europe with Felipe Nasr and Daniel Juncadella. The Brazilian, with five wins and nine more podium finishes, was champion, while the Spaniard, despite only winning once, finished runner-up. But the following campaign was already looking a tougher challenge, since the team would have to defend its title with two rookies, however talented they were.

In terms of readiness for the switch to formula racing, Daniil was slightly behind Carlos. During the first test at Varano Kvyat's best lap was half a second slower than Sainz's, but the team regarded that as a great effort. In talking to Helmut Marko, Antonio Ferrari didn't hold back praising Kvyat, because for Sainz that test was far from his first. The son of the two-time world rally champion was preparing for this career move extensively and for quite a while, as he had been periodically turning up at Formula BMW tests some year and a bit before his race debut. Kvyat, meanwhile, hadn't driven a racing car before his test with Eurointernational, and all of his experience prior to his debut season was exclusively in working with Ferrari's team.

"The first limit, if you want to call it that, I found almost immediately," Kvyat recalls. "But the last half a second was very difficult to make up. It was all so different compared to karting: the car was five times heavier, the suspension, the springs – it took a fair bit of time to understand how it all worked. In winter testing I was always short a few tenths, but during the break, when I had time to think, it all fell into place. My brain was reorganised, and pre-season testing was already easier."

Still, there was more to get used to than just the car. Whereas the world of karting had been thoroughly explored by the Kvyat father-son duo, now they were facing completely different realities. How to correctly structure physical preparations and working with engineers, Daniil simply didn't know. Carlos in that aspect was a step ahead – by his side, he always had his father, who despite having never done circuit racing knew everything there was to know about motorsport. From his karting days, Carlos was also accompanied by his father's former co-driver Juanjo Lacalle – a sort of guardian, ready to protect the driver's interests at any moment. Physios and racing coaches were working with Carlos, but it was Sainz Sr. - "El Matador", as they called him in rallying – who was they key figure, acting as mentor, manager and patron.

"I remember how in one of the races Sainz and Kvyat had an incident," says Alessandro Ferrari, who watched the duo's battles from the stewards' office. "Kvyat shut the door firmly, and Sainz went off. I immediately got a call from his father, who told me: 'Daniil hit him off, watch the replay.' I told him I could show him the video after the finish. 'No, I'm sure,' he insisted, but I said he had to wait. In the end, we watched the replay together, after the race, and it was clear that Carlos had gone off by himself. His father apologised, we never had any problems with him, but it's difficult to imagine any other father contacting the stewards right in the middle of the race."

Eurointernational's three drivers (Carlos and Daniil in 2010 raced alongside USA's Michael Lewis) had one race engineer working with them – Nicola Sgotto from Italy. He was one of the driving forces behind the team's confident victory the year before, but now he had to work with two karting graduates, and he realised from the very beginning that Eurointernational would struggle to repeat its success.

Nicola Sgotto:
"You can't win a championship without experience. But the problem is, experience isn't something you can buy in a supermarket. Both of them were very quick, we wanted to give them as much time as possible in testing, but they would have to race against drivers who had already spent a couple of seasons in Formula BMW – while they didn't have a single race under their belts. Felipe Nasr, before the came to us, had decent experience from Brazil, while Daniel Juncadella achieved a truly strong result only in his second season. Carlos and Daniil came to us out of karting. Yes, they were very fast in testing, recorded great laptimes, but being fast over one lap in the winter is one thing and correctly structuring a race weekend with all of its complicated logistics is quite another.

"They needed to adapt to the environment, to the walls of the cockpit, the gearshift, the weight of the car, the maximum speed and entirely different overtaking tactics. After karting it's very important to learn to maintain distance. There almost every overtake includes contact, but in formula racing any contact is likely to lead to bent suspension and retirement. For a talented driver, producing a good laptime over a single lap is usually the easiest task.

"Daniil was not as ready as Carlos. He needed to have paid more attention to, for example, physical training. He did it but he wasn't doing it right – because he didn't know how. Carlos by his side always had his father, who understood, how important nuances like these were. He had experience, knowledge, and he always had an exhaustive answer to every question. Daniil had nobody who could help him. His father knew nothing of motorsport. Yes, he did all he could, but he was a person from an entirely different world.

"When we first ran Daniil at Varano, he didn't even know how to deal with the gearshift, while Carlos, when he came to us, already had dozens of testing days under his belt. It was completely normal that he had a slight advantage in the beginning."

All the problems suddenly reared their head in Zandvoort – the only round that season that took place separate from Formula 1. In practice Kvyat surprised the team with a request to go to the toilet. The session had been interrupted by red flags, but they were quickly withdrawn – and Daniil lost several minutes, several laps, due to being away. He couldn't make up for it – in qualifying Daniil didn't even manage the same results he'd produced in Barcelona. In race one he was 11th and in race two he was disqualified.

It rained before the start of the second race, and the red light, which was required to be on if a race was declared wet, broke on Daniil's car. Sgotto recalls: "We tried to call him into the pits during the warm-up lap, to fix the issue, but he either didn't understand our request or simply refused to obey because then he'd have to start from the pitlane. Daniil understood that he was very good in the rain. That was indeed the case. Even from a pitlane start he'd easily have returned to the position from which he ended up starting. But he didn't go to the pits. The conditions were perfect for him and, to tell you the truth, he could have even won the race. I understand why he didn't want to come to the pitlane. But it was one of those moments where you just have to accept the situation as it is. It wasn't his fault that the light wasn't working, but there was no point in continuing to drive around. And of course he was eventually shown the black flag."

Ferrari was furious. Sainz finished the race in second, but Eurointernational's results overall paled in comparison with the year before. After the race Antonio received a call from Helmut Marko, who was watching the proceedings on TV. "I remember that talk like it was yesterday," Ferrari says. "He asked: 'What on Earth is going on on your end?' I answered: 'Helmut, I really don't understand how that could've happened. But Daniil couldn't cope with the stress. He knows that he can be fast, but he's nervous.'

"After the race we had a serious chat with Daniil. He was very good in the rain. Of all who I've worked with in these conditions, he is the best. He has an incredible feel for the car. Yes, the light wasn't working, but he had to just come to the pitlane. I told him then: 'Daniil, you have unreal potential, why aren't you listening to what you're told? You just need to come in when you're asked.' To be honest, at that moment I thought we'd be parting ways."

"In actuality, the whole conflict arose from nothing," Kvyat contends. "That day my radio simply wasn't working, and I didn't hear anything about my light not being on. The team tried to signal to me, but because of the cloud of spray I couldn't even see what they were showing me. The first two or three laps are always very tense, and there was an unbelievable amount of spray on the main straight. Only later would I move to the right from my line and see the pit board. I came to the pitlane and we immediately had a spat with Antonio. I tried to say that my radio wasn't working, but nobody believed me."

To work out the conflict, the Kvyats and Ferrari met up in Rome, with Toccacelo there acting as "peacemaker". Enrico couldn't come to Zandvoort but during the meeting helped the driver and his father on the one side and Eurointernational's boss on the other to reach agreement. Antonio wrote to Marko that the issue was settled, but Daniil's standing in the team remained shaky. Both podiums in the European series were Sainz's, who was easier to work with, because he was sooner capable of producing the results you could show to Red Bull – with the added weight provided by his father. "I always liked Sainz Sr.," says Toccacelo. "He's a very pleasant man, but each time his son was starting to have issues he changed a bit. He could sit with engineers until as late as 11, studying telemetry. That could never happen with Slava."

The team's attitude towards Kvyat was a bit different. Ahead of another race in Spain, the Kvyats couldn't take off in time due to a mishap in the Rome airport and had to come to the track by car – obviously, they were way late. "It was some misunderstanding and due to a nothing formality – we were missing a printout of sorts – we weren't allowed the board the plane," Kvyat recalls. "So at eight in the evening on Wednesday we set out to Valencia by car. We needed to be there by five in the evening on Thursday for the briefing. Father drove all night. It's one of those moments for which I'm very thankful to him. The two of us have gone through a lot, and he always supported me, stood by my side, never turned away.

"We drove for all night, stopped just the once to sleep for thirty minutes or so, and arrived some time around five. Both tired after a thousand and a half kilometres, of course. I did make it in time for the briefing but the team's track walk was earlier, during lunchtime, and in the evening nobody was up for walking it with me. It wasn't very pleasant, of course, but the weekend overall turned out not so bad."

Kvyat's qualifying effort put him ninth on the grid for both races. He retired from the first one after a collision with a rival in the back of the pack, but finished the second race in eighth, even ahead of Sainz. However, a complete fiasco would follow next, at Silverstone.

"At our track at Varano Daniil was quickest of all," Sgotto recalls. "And that was easy to explain – it's like a kart track. Small, with slow corners. It's important to do well at tracks like these, too, but Silverstone is completely the other way around. There's lots of fast, high-speed corners, those that simply don't exist in karting. The grip between the car and the track is the same, but the speed is so much higher. Through slow turns, which you do at 100km/h and lower, karting graduates have an easier time. But at 180 km/h it's an entirely different story."
At Silverstone, Kvyat's deficit to Sainz reached a critical point. Carlos was on pole for the first time the season – and it was two pole position starts right away, as he'd done a couple of very good laps in qualifying. Daniil was left 13th and 14th on the timing sheets, his best lap two seconds slower than his teammate's. Even Eurointernational's third driver Lewis was a few tenths quicker.

Toccacelo was skipping a third straight weekend as he himself was racing in GTs, so Kvyat had nobody who could help him out. He didn't make it into the top 10 in either race, while Sainz not only made the podium twice, but took his maiden win – in race two, holding off Harvey and Frijns, who together had won every race of the season prior to that.

Kvyat now faced the very real threat of being dropped from the programme. "After Zandvoort, Valencia and Silverstone, Dr. Marko's patience was running out," Kvyat recalls. "We had a couple of serious discussions and, of course, at times like these you start to panic. After all, following that weekend in England I was simply told: 'Okay, it's time to deliver some results. You have to – it's now, or it's never."