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Rookie diary - Caterham's Giedo van der Garde 24 Jun 2013

Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 7 June 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, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 25 May 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 25 May 2013 (L to R): Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham and Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 24 March 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 16 March 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 10 May 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 10 May 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 10 May 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 17 March 2013

At 28 years of age, Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde is comfortably the oldest of the five rookies on the 2013 grid, but that doesn’t mean that he’s had any less to learn. In the latest instalment of our series charting the personal and professional progress of this year’s F1 newcomers, Van der Garde reflects on the ups and downs of his debut season, including that fine qualifying effort in Monaco…

“We’re seven races into my debut season and it’s been everything I thought it would be, and a lot more! I have to say, I’m loving it - the highs and the lows. I’m learning from the lows and enjoying the highs, and there have been a few moments that will stay with me forever; the start of my first ever Grand Prix in Australia, reaching Q2 in Monaco, racing with Button in Spain - those are the sorts of things I’ll remember forever, and I know there’s more to come.

“What has also been great is how the team has helped me as a rookie. When my drive was announced we said I’d need some time to find my true pace, and the whole team has been really supportive in helping me get comfortable in and out of the car. The Monaco qualifying performance shows a bit of what we can do with a package I can really push with, and with every lap I have more confidence to put in that sort of performance again.

“That qualifying session (in Monaco) was one of those where it all comes together. We went out on track before anyone else in Q1 and we knew that if we didn’t make any mistakes, that it was the sort of day in which we could really take advantage. I think we were one of the first cars to pit for new intermediates and then it all came together on the final Q1 lap and I was into Q2. For me it was very calm. Even from inside the cockpit I could sense how much it meant to the team to be in Q2, with the TV cameras on us, especially with (Caterham Group co-chairman) Tony Fernandes in the garage!

“In Q2 we waited a bit and then I had a conversation with my engineer about going for it. We went out on the intermediates for one lap and then I made the call to go to slicks straight away. There was a moment when I think they were saying ‘is it too early?’ on the pit wall, but they trusted me so we boxed for slicks and then it turned into one of the most exciting quali sessions of my career!

“For a while we were in the top 10, and I guess quite a few teams ahead were having to quickly change their strategies as they weren’t expecting to see a Caterham possibly going through to Q3. As it turned out we ended up P15, one of the best results ever for the team. It was just a shame that we couldn’t carry it through into the race, but that’s all part of the rookie lessons.

“From a pace point of view, we were very clear about how fast the car would likely be for the first few races, so that wasn’t a surprise. We also knew what we’d be bolting on from Spain, and that’s been a good step, one we haven’t got everything out of yet, so I’m positive about what’s to come.

“In terms of my transition to F1, I wouldn’t say I’m pleased as there’s still a lot more to come, from me and the car, but so far I’m happy with how I’m adapting to the step up to F1. I think if I hadn’t had the time with the team last year it would all be a lot more challenging, but I spent enough time with the team at races and the factory in 2012 to have had an idea of what was to come, and I think that’s made the transition to F1 easier than it may have been coming in cold.

“Of course, you’re always learning, always trying to find ways to improve. Especially in F1, the moment you say you understand, whatever it is, it’ll always find a way of throwing something new at you. How you deal with the new challenges every day makes you who you are, and I think I’m dealing with it all ok. When I’m old and retired, when I’m telling the grandkids about what is was like being an F1 racer, that’s when I’ll hopefully understand it all…

“I’ve learned a lot from Charles (Pic, Van der Garde’s team mate). We were team mates before, in GP2, so I knew Charles well before the season started, and we’re working really well together. We share all the information on track and at the factory and we discuss things openly, without problems, so it’s working well.

“As for Heikki (Kovalainen, Caterham’s former race and now reserve driver), it’s good to have someone of his experience around to help with the team, and it was helpful having his experience of last year’s car and tyres to balance against the 2013 package. But is he some kind of ‘agony aunt’? No.

“Away from the races, I relax the same way all the drivers do - spend time with the family and friends who you don’t get to see too much, because of the calendar, and train. I really like training and my physio Carlos comes up with some different things for us to do so it’s always interesting. We went paddle-boarding in Australia, for example - that was cool, right until the moment we saw a bunch of jellyfish in the sea around us… I don’t know if that was an idea Carlos had to make me paddle faster but it worked!

“I also spend a lot of time with the guys at McGregor clothing (a Caterham sponsor). In Spain they launched a special range of Giedo/Caterham F1 clothes and have done some cool videos and photos to promote them, and it’s fun hanging out with them when I am home. Cool clothes and good people - who wouldn’t want to hang out like that?

“In all seriousness, it’s important to relax although I don’t really have a procedure. I’m pretty laidback already, well, not laidback, more relaxed about the unimportant things and focused on what matters. People who know me well will tell you I’m positive and want to put good energy out there - I think if you are good with the people around you you’ll get back good things, and that’s true of everything I do. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t go to plan but if you can come out of the bad times feeling positive that’s a much better way of dealing with it than being angry.

“Speaking of positivity, Belgium’s going to be huge race for me. It’s effectively my home race and there will be a lot of Dutch fans there, so, aside from the fact that Spa in an F1 car is going to be seriously cool, that’ll be a good weekend. I’m also really looking forward to Singapore - I won there last year in GP2 and while we’re obviously setting our sights a bit lower than that this year, it’s still an amazing experience racing at night around there. Suzuka will also be cool - I’m looking forward to what it feels like getting a really quick lap around there right, and then Austin - with the US partners we have - will be another big race for our team.

“The rest of the season is pretty simple for me - keep learning, keep developing and grabbing whatever opportunities come our way. Monaco Q2 showed what we can do with a good plan and a bit of courage, and I want that feeling again this year, for me and the whole team.

“That feeling is the best thing about being an F1 driver. The glamour thing doesn’t really mean anything to me - sure it’s nice that we’ll have some good photos and films to look back on when I’m old, but the single most enjoyable moment so far was sitting on the grid in Australia waiting for the lights to go out. I knew then that all the hard work, all the time we’d spent working to F1 had all been worth it. The sacrifices, the sweat, the effort everyone who’d helped me get to that point put in - it all came good on the grid in Melbourne.”

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