Daniil Kvyat looks calm on the eve of the biggest challenge of his young career.
“Not only have I never raced in Monaco, I’ve never been here before,” smiles the young Russian, in the Toro Rosso wing of the monstrously large Red Bull floating motorhome, just outside the Monaco paddock.
Earlier today the rookie, who has scored points in three of his first five Grands Prix, did his first Monaco track walk and tried to take in the bewildering ribbon of tarmac lined with barriers which is F1’s most famous venue.
“It looks quite tight, not much space or freedom. But it looks really cool; the Swimming Pool in particular” says Kvyat. “I’ve never driven here, so I don’t know what to say.
“I’ve studied on board cameras, tried to learn the lines. I had just half a day on the simulator, but I think it’s enough. You learn the configuration, which kerb you can use and which you cannot. When you go to the track it’s a different reality. You try things and if they it’s good you continue and if it’s not you change your approach. You have to react.
“I hope I can get the right rhythm and do really well. I think it’s a good track to show your potential.”
Will this be the scariest race he has done? ” I think in the beginning it will not be easy to put the full throttle on,” replies the Russian, F1’s youngest points scorer. “But it’s all about the right approach. You need to get everything right from the beginning of the weekend to get a good result.”
It is unusual for an F1 driver to arrive in F1 without ever having driven some kind of car around Monaco. Valterri Bottas did it last year after jumping straight from GP3, which doesn’t race in Monaco, into F1. Kvyat followed his lead this year.
How does he anticipate the challenge of building up speed without any form of mental database of the circuit and its quirks?
“No secrets – I’ll not try to do anything I don’t know or try anything clever. That won’t help me. I’ll do what I know, which is to drive fast.”
JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan observed that from his experience of running young drivers, building up the confidence to peak on Saturday afternoon for qualifying is the key and that if you put the driver into the right place with a clear track and he peaks at the right time, he can find a second to two seconds in himself.
“Two seconds is hard to find anywhere, the limit I find tomorrow should be a good baseline for Saturday. Then in qualifying, you need to be really confident around here to be quick and to put the car really close to the walls,” he said.
Amusingly Kvyat shot down the notion that he is from the “Playstation Generation” of kids arriving in F1 who grew up gaming and seeing the world digitally.
“Everyone says ‘Playstation Generation’, but I never had a Playstaion,” laughs Kvyat. “Karting is enough. Being on a real track. I was never a fan of gaming. If you check my IPhone, there is not even one game on it!!”
Kvyat is a likeable but very focussed young driver, who expresses himself well in English and seems already at home in F1. He impressed last season in GP3 and has started as well as he could have imagined possible in his F1 career.
He looks to be one of those who knows that, in becoming an F1 driver, the hard work starts now, as opposed to being an end in itself.
His challenge this weekend, while far from unprecedented, will be interesting to watch.