Oleg Karpov
"DANIIL KVYAT. PATH TO F1"


CHAPTER 5
«MONZA»
This text is a fragment of the original chapter of the book. Translation by Valentin Khorounzhiy.

Heading into the second half of the Formula BMW Europe season Kvyat had amassed three finishes in the top 10, three more outside the top 10, two retirements and a best finish of eighth.

Antonio Ferrari:
"To be honest, I always took special pleasure in dealing with Daniil. I've always called him a 'businessman'. I remember how I came to a kart race to meet some of the potential candidates that my brother told me about. When we met up with Carlos, he had his father, his manager and a whole squad nearby – they had an efficient system that was working well. With Daniil it was entirely different. When we first met, he said straight away: 'Antonio, let's head to the guest zone'. We sat down at the table, and he negotiated with me one-on-one. I'll never forget how we put together an additional contract for the Asian races. He was talking through each detail – down to the number of tyre sets. That was appealing. I saw his effort, how much work he was putting in. He's a complicated character – strong but very stubborn. Daniil always met Marko face-to-face, talked to him straight. For Carlos it was always a bit different.
"I think Daniil and myself respected each other a lot, but I always tried to demand more of him, even if inside I was very satisfied with him – I never told him that because I wanted him to work even harder.

"Helmut taught me a lot – first and foremost, that results have to be put above all. Daniil was incredibly talented, but he wasn't fully delivering on that talent. Later he'd become a true professional. But my Daniil was 15, he was making mistakes, and I just wanted him to mnimise them. I wanted to create the perfect driver, and often my methods could cause him distress. But in racing you often have to go through tough times. "The team regarded him highly. He had a great relationship with the mechanics. All of his free time he spent in the garage, helping them clean the car when he'd gone off or made a mistake. If you ask my mechanics who their favourite driver was over all the past years, they'd say – Daniil.

"But I always pressured him, made him push himself harder. He was like a pole vaulter who could confidently, and with a big margin, clear 5.90, but was all mixed up when the bar was set higher. To me it was always clear that Daniil's limit was six metres, but to make him jump, you had to push him."

"What I liked in Antonio was that he was passionate about working with racing drivers," Kvyat says. "You can see the fire in his eyes, and that's very important. If something was going wrong, he'd always mention it. Sometimes he was harsh, often even too harsh, but that year I did learn a lot. He really cared. You could see that when things were going badly, when I was making mistakes, he was peeved – like he knows what needs to be done, but can't do it for me.

"He had to spend a lot of time to get through to me over some things, but it's exactly then that I realised how to best cope with pressure, how to do the best that I can in qualifying and in the race. I learned composure – still wasn't perfect at it, of course, but the second half of the season went well."

At Hockenheim, Daniil caught up with Sainz for the first time. Enrico Toccacelo was finally there in Germany, and Nicola Sgotto tried to tweak the set-up of the car to better fit Kvyat's driving style. As a result, in qualifying he set a time that allowed him to start one of the races from the front row.

"Nicola helped me a lot," Daniil recalls. "At the start of the weekend he came up to me and said: 'I did something to the car, I reckon it should suit you.' And, actually, from the very first lap I felt confidence in the car. That was probably what I lacked initially, because now the laptimes immediately became very good. I took second and fourth place from qualifying, beating Carlos for the first time in the season, which was very important because previously he'd been consistently ahead. From that moment we have always been very close. It was a turning point of sorts. I don't know why, but when the pressure reached its peak, it was easier for me. It wasn't so much resignation, but rather realisation that there was nowhere to retreat."

In one of the two races that weekend, Daniil was close to finishing third, but allowed a rival to get past in the hairpin. Still, Sainz ended up far behind in both races.

Kvyat wasn't trailing his teammate in Hungary either, but retired from one of the races after a clash with Javier Tarancon. A month on in Belgium, after Formula 1's traditional August break, Sainz retired twice after early-lap collisions, while Kvyat first finished sixth and then took fifth in Spa's customarily difficult rainy weather conditions.

Only one round was left until the end of the season. Daniil came into it in 10th place in the drivers' standings, without a podium to his name. Despite the progress he'd made in the second half of the championship, the threat of being dropped from the programme was still real. The Kvyats were seriously evaluating career progression options outside of Red Bull.

"I remember how before Monza we again met up in Rome," says Toccacelo. "We were sitting at the table, three of us, and Daniil and his father were asking: 'What if Red Bull won't keep us on? What options should we look into? Which championships, teams?' Generally speaking, they had no idea what to do next, who to contact, because after karting they had everything taken care of by Red Bull."

The final weekend of the European season was to be decisive. "In the second half of the championship the trust was seemingly regained, but the feeling remained that it wasn't enough," says Daniil. "We needed a result from Monza, a podium."

Antonio Ferrari:
"Everybody knows that Monza is a special track. The wings here are set up at minimal angles so as to reach maximum speed, and if you don't have a power advantage, you can only fight back under braking.

"There are two ingredients that you need to succeed there. First – a good feel for the car. Second – big balls. That's why Daniil was always comfortable at Monza - he ticked both boxes. When we came there in March for pre-season testing, he was quickest. He was first, Carlos was second.

"Daniil has instinct, a phenomenal feel for the car. It's something in the genes. The hardest conditions for the drivers are when the track is drying up after rain, when it's no longer wet, but isn't yet dry. I've worked with a hundred drivers during my life, and I've never met one who was better than Daniil in those conditions. At Monza – even when it's dry – since the wings are so small, you have to feel the track through your wheels. The grip is almost the same as from a half-damp surface, and that's why he's so good there.

"Another strong point of Daniil's is braking. He had great braking, and we made use of that in Formula BMW. When we set out for the race, I told him: 'At Monza we're setting the wings at the minimum angle possible, at the limit. I will make your car very rapid on the straights, but you've got to brake." With those settings we headed to Varano, so he could prepare. I'm certain that from that point on he's asked each of his teams to set up the car exactly that way."

In qualifying Kvyat was sixth and fifth, edged out slightly by Sainz, and at the start of race one he couldn't avoid colliding with a rival. Retirement.

There was just one race left until the end of the Formula BMW Europe season. "I started fifth and took the first corner well, immediately moving up to second," Daniil recalls. "Then we battled Jack Harvey. In the end I caught up to him – came up a couple of laps short, or we could've won. But most importantly – here was the podium, and along with it a huge relief. It felt like weight off my shoulders, and after the race Antonio told me that Dr. Marko was very happy, confirming that I would remain in the programme for the following year."

At that point Red Bull had already settled on a plan for Sainz. Carlos was to move on to Formula Renault 2.0. For Kvyat, the most logical step would've been to keep him in the same category for a second year, but BMW shut down its programme, and the 2010 season would turn out to be Formula BMW Europe's last. Ferrari offered Marko to give Kvyat a seat in Formula Abarth, and it was a satisfactory option for almost everyone, including Lukoil. The Russian oil company continued to sponsor Daniil along with Red Bull, but it wouldn't be able to do so in Formula Renault due to the series' exclusive deal with Total. And Kvyat himself, many believed, wasn't yet ready to move up to a more senior category.

"If BMW carried on with its series, he would've definitely stayed with us, and Carlos would've moved up to 2.0 alone," Ferrari assures. "Carlos had an advantage as he'd done a lot more testing in formula cars before the start of his career. He was better prepared in a physical sense. Daniil, meanwhile, only worked with us, as demanded by Red Bull. Dr. Marko didn't want him testing on the side, told him to part ways with his coach. Daniil followed his orders, and, most importantly, showed progress throughout the season. He could've stayed with us, but BMW closed down the championship. We offered to take him to Abarth."

The final decision on Kvyat's future was made two weeks on in Singapore, where Eurointernational went along with the Formula 1 contingent, entering the Formula BMW Pacific series round. Daniil comfortably topped qualifying, bagging both pole positions, and then in the opening race triumphed in a tense duel against Richard Bradley, who was racing under the Singaporean flag.

"This Bradley knew the track very well, but Daniil and Carlos were also quick," Sgotto recalls. "At the start Bradley took the lead, but by the end Kvyat was attacking him in almost every corner. His defending was very unpleasant to watch – dirty. At one point, he braked much earlier and Daniil, because of that, hit him from behind. As a result, Bradley's exhaust was damaged, and Kvyat could pass him and win.

"After the race it was a complete circus. That driver's dad had strong ties to local stewards, and so they wanted to disqualify Daniil for the collision – allegedly he flattened his exhaust pipe, and the lack of power cost Bradley victory. It was absolutely brazen. We stayed at the track until midnight, arguing our case, but in the end they still gave Bradley the win and ordered us to give back the trophy."

"Nicola is from Calabria, he's a typical Southerner," Kvyat says. "He lost his temper and was ready to tear all those stewards apart. Everyone was upset, understandably, but in actuality the official result of the race didn't mean anything. The most important thing was that I proved I could fight for victories, proved I could match Carlos and even be ahead."

That same evening Helmut Marko called Kvyat over to the Formula 1 paddock, to discuss the following season: "It was right after the podium ceremony, I was still the race winner. And really, for Dr. Marko the result on paper wasn't particularly important. He was happy with how I did the race and asked me to head into the paddock, for the first time that season. "It was a strange feeling. Sebastian Vettel came up to us, we talked – for me it was as if not even real. Then Marko told me that we needed to discuss what to do next year. Told me there were two options: Formula Abarth and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. The latter was considered the most prestigious championship at that point in time, it boasted the highest level of competition. Carlos and Robin Frijns were heading there, as was Stoffel Vandoorne. I was raring to race there.

"Marko said: 'You live in Italy, it would be convenient for you to race in Abarth, but Formula Renault is also a real option. What do you think?' Of course, he almost certainly had his own clear vision of what to do next, and he would in any case have done what he was initially planing to do. But he still asked a 16-year-old kid's opinion, which I think is pretty great.

"I told him I didn't care how convenient or comfortable it would be, that I wanted to fight against the best and get used to the highest level of competition – and thus I'd prefer Formula Renault 2.0. He answered: 'Well, that's fantastic. I agree with you completely.' "