Ex-Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat says NASCAR allowing him to race, when other sports have banned fellow Russians following the invasion of Ukraine, is a “great example for everyone else, also back in Europe”.
Kvyat is making his NASCAR Cup Series debut with Team Hezeberg this weekend on the Indianapolis road course where he qualified for Sunday’s race in 36th, admittedly after only one short practice session in the car having been out of competition since F1’s 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The FIA stopped short of barring Russian drivers from competing when it took action following the invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, creating a process by which they could still race under a neutral flag and if they adhered to certain principles.
But British governing body Motorsport UK went further and opted for a full ban on Russian licence holders.
That meant Kvyat’s countryman Nikita Mazepin would have been barred from contesting F1’s British Grand Prix had he kept his Haas seat, though the team swiftly replaced him with Kevin Magnussen anyway.
In practice, Russian drivers have largely not raced outside their homeland this season. Although there are some exceptions such as Hungaroring FIA Formula 3 feature race winner Alexander Smolyar.
“The situation is a bit complicated as you can imagine, but I was happy to hear NASCAR shows a great example of sportsmanship,” said Kvyat.
“I think that’s how it should be. Sport should unite people and it’s amazing how they showed it, and it’s a great example for everyone else also back in Europe.
“I hope they will take this and make it less complicated. So I hope that’s the way it’s going to be.
“It’s not like it’s blocked. There are ways, it’s OK. Like I don’t say anything bad about anyone.”
About today 😎🎤🏁@IMSA @NASCAR @TeamHezeberg pic.twitter.com/03eJI1axs4
— Daniil Kvyat (@kvyatofficial) July 30, 2022
The 28-year-old, who made 110 grand prix starts for Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri and Red Bull and scored three podiums, was visibly excited in the Indianapolis media pen straight after his qualifying outing.
He said that his year and a half of not racing after losing his AlphaTauri seat felt “very long”. Kvyat had spent 2021 as an Alpine reserve and was due to race in the World Endurance Championship’s LMP2 class with G-Drive this year before it withdrew because it was unwilling to accept the conditions for participation laid out by the FIA.
“I was really excited to get into the car here,” Kvyat added.
“When the car started today finally in free practice, I was like ‘yes, we’re going on track finally! We go racing! This is really cool’. And so yeah, very, very excited.”
Kvyat has discussed his enjoyment of NASCAR from afar before, telling The Race last year that it was a target for his racing future.
After Sunday’s event, he’s hoping to contest the final two road courses on the Cup calendar this season to gain more experience.
Asked if the target is a full-season of NASCAR next year, Kvyat added: “I’m very open-minded to perhaps do a full season here one day, maybe next year.
“But I need to also get up to speed on the ovals. Try oval racing and of course, I want to be competitive. I didn’t want to just come to drive, I want to be competitive.
“It means me being in the right place, getting the right experience, having a very competitive car also, because it’s important here. So all factors have to be together.”
The NASCAR paddock is sharing the Indianapolis weekend with IndyCar, which would be an obvious place for Kvyat to end up if he is to stay in the States, based on his long single-seater experience.
Kvyat admitted there have been no talks as of yet with IndyCar teams, but that this weekend was a good opportunity for it.
“I haven’t had talks, but since I’m here now, I think we will,” he said.
“And I’m open minded also, to do a little bit of both.
“IndyCar is sort of a continuation of Formula 1. NASCAR is so unique, and even if there are alternatives they are much lower in the level. So this is why I was interested here.
“But yeah, for sure, IndyCar, I would think hopefully I could do a very strong job straightaway, because the cars are more to what I’m used to driving.”
Kvyat is yet to contact IndyCar about his eligibility to compete in the series.
All drivers who enter the IndyCar Series have to sign up for a licence, which IndyCar judges on a case-by-case basis.