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Rookie diary - with Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde 07 Nov 2013

Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Saturday, 26 October 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 2 November 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham F1 and Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Qualifying, Saturday, 26 October 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 23 May 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 29 June 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03 leads team mate Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race Day, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 9 June 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 7 June 2013

He may not have scored a point in 2013, but Giedo van der Garde has proved his pace on more than one occasion, in particular in qualifying where he’s piloted his Caterham into Q2 on two occasions. In the latest of our series charting the personal and professional progress of this year’s newcomers, the 28-year-old Dutchman reflects on his maiden Formula One campaign, including one slightly hairy moment at Spa…

“There are two races to go in my rookie campaign, but I think all the drivers would tell you they don't want the season to stop. Sure, you need a break, but the buzz of driving an F1 car is like a drug - you want more: more power, more grip, more push. I'm sure that a few days after the final race in Brazil I'll want to be back in a car. I do have my wedding to look forward to in December, so that's a perfect way to focus on something that's not racing, but after Christmas when my training program kicks in again, then F1 will be calling!

“Of course, I haven’t signed with any team yet for 2014 and as for where I’ll be driving I'm going to give you a proper F1 driver answer and say my manager's looking after everything for the future so I can focus on my racing. That is the truth, and not just what he and our press guy want me to say.

“It’s hard to pick out a favourite moment of the season, especially there’s more time to put in another performance I'll be proud of. But, for sure, getting into Q2 in Monaco and in Belgium were special feelings. Going out on two of the world's most classic tracks in wet-dry conditions, making the call to go to slicks when every other car was still on wets - that took some balls! Not just for me, for the team as well - they had to trust my instincts and we were rewarded.

“I have to say though, going through a wet Eau Rouge (at Spa) on slicks with about two minutes left of Q1 - just enough to complete the lap and start a final quick lap - that was a pretty big moment. The car was just about gripping, but it could definitely have gone so it was a seriously big moment. Then, when we ended Q1 in third place, I was asking my engineer Juan what had happened. He said: ‘we're in Q2, you're P3’ and I didn't really hear him. Maybe I did hear him but I couldn't really believe it so I said, ‘Sorry, can you repeat’ and he told me where we were. I was just so happy, for me and everyone in the team, especially doing it at Spa as it is the closest I come to having a ‘home’ race. That day will live with me forever, but I also know we have more days like that to come.

“In terms of my performances relative to Charles (Pic, Van der Garde’s team mate), I think, so far, it's been how I said it would be before the season. Charles and I get on well so there have been no issues between us all year, and that's good as he had the 2012 season on his F1 CV already. I set out to learn as much as I could in the first half of the season, and then really start pushing (in the second half). That's how it's worked out, maybe not in the last couple of races as we've hit a patch of bad luck, but overall I think I can say I've done a good job.

“Of course, I raced against Charles, Nico (Hulkenberg) and Sergio (Perez) in lower categories and it’s been good to race them in F1. I've known those guys for a very long time. I've raced them and beaten them when we were all younger, but now it's different. The car is such an important part of F1 that sometimes it doesn't matter how good you are, if the car's not as quick as the car ahead then you can't catch them no matter what. If you're close you can fight, but if they have a one-, two- or three-second advantage there's not much you can do to cancel that out. Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not complaining. My team is young - only four seasons old - and we're fighting teams with decades of experience, but our aim is to give me a chance to fight the guys I've been racing since we were all in karts.

“What’s the most difficult thing to come to terms with in F1? Well, on track, the tyres were hard to manage to begin with. Everyone knows the tyres we had for the first half of the year weren't ones you could really push with and I'm the sort of driver that likes to race as hard as possible, not drive at 90 percent looking after rubber. The new tyres for the second half of the season have suited me more, and I’ve had more confidence to push, so that, and the fact I was fully settled into F1 by then both helped me put in better performances, like you saw in Spa.



“I think off track it's been pretty much what I expected. I've been around F1 and motorsport for long enough to know what this world is like, and I was embedded in the F1 team last year while doing GP2, so I knew how much the drivers have to cope with, from media and sponsors to engineers and officials. There's a lot to distract you from the pure driving, but I think the fact I'm a bit older and have a bit more perspective, that helped me deal with it all okay.

“Getting to Formula One involved a lot of sacrifices but I can tell you they are 100 percent worth it. Anyone who says it's not worth sacrifice to be an F1 driver is either stupid or has already had their dreams come true. And what sacrifice? You are one of only 22 drivers taking part in races around the world, you’re racing in front of hundreds of millions of people watching on TV and at the tracks, and you're in some of the fastest machines on earth. You have a team of hundreds of people working flat out all year to help you drive the world's fastest race cars and you get to do what you grew up aiming for - to be an F1 driver.

“Whether you're Seb (Vettel) winning your fourth title, or someone like me, working as hard as you can to learn and help your team develop, you can still say to people who ask what you do, ‘I'm an F1 driver’.”


“What would I like to achieve in the final couple of races? The simple answer is tenth place in the constructors’ championship for the team. If we do that it'll mean Charles or I will have finished 13th or higher - obviously I'd like it to be me - but for the team, and for me personally, I think that would be a fair result. We started behind Marussia in terms of pure pace and because everyone at the factory and on track worked so hard, we overtook them by Spain and have been faster ever since.

“They were in the right place at the right time to take that 13th place in race one, and you have to be there to do that, but maybe our bit of luck will come in the last couple of races. It did last year, so why not this year? I know I can be there when it counts to take advantage of that, so hopefully that's how it will end. If it doesn't, it doesn't - so be it. I'm a positive guy and I know we will continue to grow, both me and the team.”

 
 


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