The third and final leg of this trio of races in Asia is underway in Suzuka, which hosts Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix. All the team personnel are now at the iconic track, including our two drivers.
“I spent Monday resting in Malaysia, as I had not felt at my best over the weekend, so I gave myself a day off and then on Tuesday I flew to Japan, coming straight to Suzuka,” Daniil Kvyat told the press, in our hospitality tent in the paddock. “I ran the track on Wednesday just as some light rain was falling, before having a nice dinner, talking philosophy with my trainer!”
“I like Japan, even if Suzuka town itself is not the most exciting place, but there’s a good vibe from the amazing fans,” reflected our Russian driver. “The track is also an amazing challenge, especially corners like the 130 R and the Esses and Spoon curve which are a very big challenge and unique in the world. Everyone’s reminding me about my accident here last year, but I don’t think about it and it won’t be a problem. Overall this is a unique and challenging circuit, so that when you nail a lap it feels very cool.”
Kvyat’s difficult return to the Toro Rosso family is now in the past, as recent strong performances have proved. “I definitely feel more comfortable in the team these days than I did a few months ago,” he admitted. “I had to create my own comfort zone and I start every weekend now thinking it’s going to be enjoyable. We know this won’t be an easy race for us, but I enjoy doing my job whatever position I’m fighting for. I focus on it and fight until the end. You have to accept your situation and find what you enjoy in your work. A couple of months ago, of course I had a few doubts, but now everything’s clear to me. I love what I do and I want to do this for as long as I can.”
Carlos Sainz had his first ever experience of Tokyo earlier this week and also found time for a round of golf in between Sepang and Suzuka. Back at work, it was time for him to join five other drivers in the traditional Thursday FIA Press Conference. He was first asked if he found the past few races frustrating. “No, I wouldn’t use the word frustration to describe that tough end of the season we’re suffering at the moment in Toro Rosso,” he said. “Singapore was obviously a very big opportunity missed, starting P6, we knew we had the pace to finish at least in the top six, which is when you are fighting with McLaren and Haas for those P6, P7, it’s a lot of points but you cannot keep thinking too much about it. We went to Malaysia; we knew we were not going to be as fast as in Singapore and it got confirmed. We are trying to extract the maximum performance out of the car at every race and we know our performance can vary a lot from circuit to circuit and we just need to go race-by-race seeing where we stand in each one.”
Along with the other drivers on the panel, Sainz was asked about the physical demands of driving the 2017 cars. “It’s not a secret we will need to do a step in our physical condition for next year,” admitted the Spaniard. “Already Malaysia this year we were in qualifying nearly as fast as the lap record; the race, because of the tarmac change, was 3-4 seconds per lap quicker than last year and you could already feel it. It’s a challenge that I always welcome. At the end it’s ok, it means more time in the gym, more time on a bike – but it means that also in the race a physical limitation comes into play and it’s where you can make the difference. So, I will welcome it. Also the challenge of driving a faster car is always more difficult, always more selective with drivers, so it can only be good for Formula One.”