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Rookie diary - Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde 02 Sep 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, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Hungary. Sunday, 28 July 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham F1 and Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 25 August 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hungaroring, Hungary. Saturday, 27 July 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, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 7 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 be 21st in the driver standings, but after a career-best qualifying with Caterham at last weekend’s 2013 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix, Giedo van der Garde’s stock is definitely on the rise. In the latest instalment of our series charting the personal and professional progress of this year’s F1 newcomers, Van der Garde reflects on what has been an eventful - and enjoyable - first half to his debut season…

“The last race in Hungary before the break was definitely my strongest of the season so far and it’s exactly how I wanted to go into the August break. I’ve been really clear all year - the first few races were a chance for me to learn as much as I could about the step up to F1, and, once I’d started to find my way in the sport, then I could start to show what I could do. Beating my team mate and the guys we’re fighting was the main goal, and having achieved that in Hungary I am happy with the direction I am going in.

“In the break I did some serious hot-weather training and for that I went down to Spain with my physio. Then I headed off to Italy for a few days with my girlfriend for a short break on the coast. It was great, really good, but then I wanted to get back to work. And the first race of the second half of the year - Spa - was immediately a quite big sensation: qualifying 14th was awesome - starting next to Sergio Perez in the McLaren! And even if it was not exactly hot, I could feel the higher level of my fitness.

“Going back to the summer reflections, the other thing I’m happy about is that I’m basically having a really good year both in and out of the car. Sure there have been some tough times, but I’ve used those to learn and improve. What I’ve never done is let anything get me down - I’m the same positive guy I’ve always been, and I think the team likes that, likes having someone driving who’s enjoying every lap. We keep growing together and it’s great to see what things like getting into Q2 for the second time after Monaco do for the whole team. That’s a great feeling and I’m sure there will be more of that this year. (laughs)

“The three highlights of 2013 so far are obviously Monaco, Spa quali and the Hungarian race. In Monaco and Spa everything just went right, and the relationship I have with the engineers meant that they trusted my instincts when asking for certain things like going out on slicks when it was still damp in Monaco. That’s a good feeling for a driver, knowing that the guys with all the data have the faith in their driver to back his call, and we delivered together. Hungary was different as that was the first race where I felt like I could push from lights out to the flag. The car felt great all afternoon and we made the right calls at the right times in the pits. Spa qualifying was one spot better even than Monaco, so after the Hungarian race it is a pretty good indication that the car, the team and me are on the rise.

“On the flip side, the race in Canada was tough. I made a mistake there that I apologized for immediately and I’ve made sure that I used what happened there positively so I can keep improving. We know what we need to do to make the car quicker and everyone’s doing what they can within the budget and resource restraints we have, but drivers always want more - more power, more grip. But, as I’ve said before, we’re very realistic about where we are now and where the team’s going in the future. This team is still halfway through its fourth season, and to just be in F1 is a big achievement in itself. For those reasons I don’t envy the other drivers (just their downforce) and I and the team use it as motivation to keep fighting, this year and for years to come.

“I knew very clearly where we’d be racing when I came into F1, so my current position is kind of where we thought we’d be. The main thing is to finish ahead of the team closest to us and we have eight races left to get back ahead of them. Last year the team did that with only a few laps left of the season, so let’s see where we are after Brazil. Right now I know I have what it takes to be an F1 driver because that’s exactly what I am! (laughs) I’m sure big egos work for some drivers, for others it’s maybe something else that helps drive them. For me, sure I have a healthy ego, but I also know that if you put good things out into the world, you’ll get good things back. That’s really important to me and I hope it’s what makes me the guy I am.

“I’ve been around the paddock for a long time, and I’ve raced a lot of the guys now in F1, and in the other series around F1 as well, so I have quite a few friends around the place. Being one of only 22 F1 drivers is really special, something I’ve dreamt about forever. It’s not just being one of 22, it’s also being one of only a few Dutch drivers ever to have raced in F1. Yes, at this time we’re not racing for podiums or, realistically, points, but I saw at a demo event we did in Rotterdam at the end of the August break what it means to the Dutch fans to have a local boy to cheer for. That was a special feeling - pretty humbling to be honest. Now I just have to keep learning, keep improving and take my chances when they come.”

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