Daniil Kvyat should have been celebrating racing in front of his countryman at the Russian Grand Prix but, instead, is preparing himself for the inevitable criticism that will follow a second race in which he incurred the wrath of Sebastian Vettel.
Two weeks on from a Chinese Grand Prix in which the four-time world champion branded the Red Bull driver 'a madman' for his admittedly contact-free pass into turn one, the two came together not once, but twice at Sochi Autodrom, resulting in Vettel exiting the fray against the barriers and Kvyat compromising both his own race and that of Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
The long run to a quick first turn at the former Olympic park has caused problems in the past, but chaos erupted when Kvyat ran into the back of Vettel at turn two, nudging the German into Ricciardo, who was trying to negotiate a route around the outside of the Ferrari. Although all three continued, their cars were already bearing scars, with Vettel admitting that he had had to check his mirrors to see if he had picked up a puncture in the first contact.
While he was doing that, he was also having to keep an eye on the cars ahead of him, who had been involved in separate skirmishes and, perhaps backing off, copped a second blow from Kvyat, who ran into the back of the #5 machine, pitching it hard into the barriers on the right of the left-handed turn three.
“Obviously, I think, in the future days, we will see a lot of clever comments from everyone, but my point of view is that I locked my rear wheels,” the Russian tried to explain after the race, in which he finished 15th, “It's just as simple as that. I didn't brake too late, just locked my rears and ran into his back.
“It almost felt as if someone was pushing me from behind. The car was bit out of control. I think the main problem came in turn three, not in turn two, as I think Sebastian felt he had a problem with the car, so he had to stop very, very suddenly. I was just two metres behind him and, at that speed, unfortunately, today, there was not much I could do to avoid him. I apologise for ruining his race, but I am human and his sudden de-acceleration [sic
] was too much for me at that point in turn three.”
“Turn three is a very fast corner and I don't say that he did it deliberately, not possible. But I think that he just thought that, maybe after the first light contact in turn two, there was a problem with the car and so, to be sure, he just dropped the speed very suddenly. But I still expected him to keep going because he was flat-out until then and, suddenly, when the speed dropped so much…”
Vettel's expletive-laden radio message back to his team left no-one in any doubt as to his ire at being taken out of the race – the second time he has failed to complete a lap in 2016 after posting a DNS in Bahrain – but Kvyat, while accepting blame that he could hardly deny, continued to plead his case.
“I think the stewards thought I just crashed deliberately into him, but it wasn't like that – it wasn't the case,” he maintained, having been assessed a stop-go penalty shortly after the incident, “I think the penalty was very harsh, but probably fair enough, and, of course, apologies for all this mess. I think it cost us a few points today. But these things happen and I usually learn from these kinds of things.”
With team-mate Ricciardo openly saying that he too wanted an apology from the Russian, a somewhat defiant Kvyat was steeling himself for an awkward evening before he could leave the confines of the circuit.
“I think probably the whole paddock will want an apology from me,” he accepted, “But we will speak inside the team about these things after analysing everything. It is easy to talk now, very easy to attack me.
“Go on, attack me, no problem...”