When you’re apart of a program as cut throat as the Red Bull young drivers program, you either deliver or you’re out; there’s no two ways about it.
While the Red Bull stable lost young talent along the way in the likes of Brenden Hartley, António Félix da Costa, Alex Lynn and more recently Dean Stoneman, the program does promote its most competent drivers to the top of the motorsport game.
Russian’s Daniil Kvyat was the one of the youngest drivers in history to enter Formula 1, after he leapfrogged the GP2 Series straight into Formula 1 having won the GP3 title in 2013.
Kvyat spent his first season with Toro Rosso where he finished 15th. While Toro Rosso didn’t have much of a competitive package in 2014, Kvyat was able to showcase his talent through his racecraft which ultimately led to Red Bull Racing calling him up to replace the Ferrari-bound Sebastian Vettel.
Our own Josh Kruse was on hand at the Australian Grand Prix to sit down and have a chat with the Russian youngster.
How did you spend your winter break?
It was a very long winter break, I already can’t remember what happened in December to be honest, we had a lot of PR activities. Christmas and the New Year I caught up with a few friends and we travelled a bit around Europe, Italy and went skiing as well which was nice. Then on the 2nd of January I just got on with my training and that was it until the winter testing then I came here.
Pre-season testing went quite well for Red Bull didn’t it?
Yeah I think we did pretty well, we had a good amount of laps and good preparation, I think we are ready and things are more comfortable for us compared to last year.
At the start of last year you got the promotion from Toro Rosso to Red Bull, how big was that step between the teams one being a midfield team to a championship-winning team? Did testing with Red Bull help integrate yourself within the team?
I think obviously the winter testing wasn’t going so good, it was a tough year for the team generally because it had been going a bit worse than everyone expected and it wasn’t the easiest situation to handle especially for a very young driver replacing a four-time world champion in a team that used to only win.
I found myself in a quite challenging situation, so I had to step in and be mature enough to help the team out and also to help myself at some point because it wasn’t an easy situation for me either. We grew very well through the year with some decent performances and we started to be quite competitive which was very good to see.
But now the things are a lot more natural and easier to handle for sure. Obviously when you change teams it’s never going to be easy.
You were promoted for a reason due to your race craft and solid qualifying performances, how would you rate your first season with Red Bull given it was a tough year for the team?
Of course it was the reason why I went there and I think in the end the reasons confirmed themselves so that’s fine. I would say starting from Monaco onwards it was a strong run where I gained quite a few points which was very good and I rate the season quite high, although there was ups and downs but it’s just a hard go sometimes with your first year in the team.
Did you surprise yourself with some of the performances you pulled out? You beat Daniel Riccardo to the podium in Hungary where you finished second, and you beat him at the end of the season, did that surprise you at all?
Well you never know how the season is going to end up at the beginning of the year, but after four races of course I wasn’t thinking about it at all. But then things started to work much better and then I just saw that there was an opportunity to be there and wherever I ended up was fine with me, but yeah it just happened to be a very up and down season for Daniel. In the end I came out with more points which was good, but it was only for P7. Of course inside I was also bit disappointed.
What are your thoughts on the growth of Formula One in Russia now?
I think positive, there are good signs of growth of the popularity of the sport in a country which is quite big and important for F1. It’s good that the Russian fans are interested and obviously with better results I show the more it grows.
Speaking of Russia, do you have much to do with Sergey Sirotkin racing in the GP2 Series? Are you close?
We just watch the bits of our own race together. We used to race together in karts in Russia but since then we had our own different paths, when we see each other we talk nice things and everything but we’re both busy with our time and schedules but I wish him the best of luck, I think he’s a talented driver with a chance of doing very well in GP2 this season, so it’s going to be interesting from here. We didn’t have the opportunity to talk much recently in the past few years because we’ve both been very busy.
News broke today of the Aston Martin partnership with Red Bull, do you know how much of the role they will have within the team?
To be honest I haven’t heard. I think there are people in the team who are organising the deals so it may be or may not be but I’m not sure. You should become friends with Christian [Horner] he can tell you things!
Your long run pace in pre-season testing was quite good, does that give you confidence going into the season to stay ahead of what’s predicted to be a tight midfield?
I think with the rule change being so low generally everything is going to be tighter, so everyone will have to fight harder to stay where they want to stay. Let’s see, for us it’s good but we never know until the first race how it’s going to be exactly, we just have to be patient and wait a little bit.
What about the overall performance of the Red Bull in qualifying spec?
Generally speaking we ended last season in quite a happy place in that respect. If we are able to start with a similar pace and baseline from where we ended up last year I think we will be happy, because we know during the season one of our strengths is that as a team we can develop quite well through the season and that will give us a lot of hope.
What are your thoughts on the radio clamp downs, will that affect you as a driver?
I think it will affect every driver in a way because we have just been used to getting so much information from engineers. But I think it’s interesting and it will be another challenge for the F1 drivers which will be interesting, but yeah let’s see how it’s going to pan out.
Do you think the new changes to tyre choices give the drivers enough freedom for a race weekend?
I’m not too sure with this question, maybe they [Pirelli] should give us 10 compounds and let the driver choose or something! But yeah I think all in all its quite straight forward now, I think it’s another interesting change which is quite positive.
Are you a fan of the qualifying format from what you’ve seen on paper?
I think my first impression was “what is this” but then going deeper into it you find out that it’s actually quite OK. But I’m worried more for the fans, I hope they can understand everything well and will not be confused that’s the only thing that I think was a little bit of a rushed decision, otherwise for me as a driver it’s completely fine.
The drivers weren’t contacted first were they?
We were not contacted no, I hadn’t heard anything. So maybe the drivers also could be considered, I think some sort of meeting has to happen so we can discuss the driver’s role in this sort of change. I think especially experienced drivers who are there for more than three years because their opinion can count for a lot.
You touched on fans before, you’re quite active on social media doing Q & A’s with your fans on Twitter.
Yeah I’ve just started that!
Do you think all these new rules are a positive or negative thing for the casual Formula 1 fans trying to tune into a race on a Sunday?
That’s exactly why I was a bit worried, I think the tyre rules will be quite easy to understand because it’s not a big change. I think on the qualifying format; let’s say a person has been watching F1 for the past two years only, and they understand the simple qualifying format, now something completely new is coming out which is quite difficult to follow, that’s what I’m worried about. Other than that I think the teams and drivers talk about it so much that it’s not a problem, but fans who just came home from work and wants to see a race it will be more of a challenge.
Images via Red Bull Content Pool