Mid-Season Review: Giedo Van Der Garde

After evaluating the Marussia pairing, attention now turns to the Caterham duo in the intense duel for the illusive tenth place in the constructors championship. Dutch rookie, Giedo Van Der Garde, has been under pressure throughout the season as his teammate Charles Pic has consistently topped his performances on both Saturday’s and Sunday’s. While Giedo’s position is under threat, recent demonstrations of pace may have prompted a reevaluation of his progress by the team. Here’s my take on his season so far.

Unconvincing is possibly the best word to use when describing Giedo Van Der Garde’s first ten races in Formula One. He has all too frequently found himself at the very bottom of the timesheets, only drawing attention to himself when making avoidable mistakes. This was an even more obvious fact at the start of the season, as Giedo took several races before he settled into the Caterham team and adjusted to life in Formula One.
This in itself is a highly surprising circumstance considering his history in motorsport. The 28-year-old should be reaching his prime in terms of race craft and ability, following his lengthy experience of competitive racing. It is crucial to note that his GP2 career began back in late 2008, when he competed in the Asia Series for the iSport International Team. Moreover, Van Der Garde joined the Caterham setup prior to the start of the 2012 GP2 season, becoming the F1 outfit’s reserve driver at the same time. Consequently, he should have been accustomed to the team and able to hit the ground running at the start of the season, especially considering the testing mileage he was able to complete throughout 2012 and the pre-season.
While neither Giedo nor Charles were blessed with sufficient equipment during the opening rounds of the season, Van Der Garde failed to deliver early on. He finished just P18 in Melbourne, (last of the finishers) and was outperformed by the lesser experienced Max Chilton. He returned the compliment in Malaysia, despite a P22 position on the grid. However, China and Bahrain saw Giedo finish at the back yet again – A wheel bearing issue halted his progress in Spain.
Following his dreadful run of form, questions were already being asked externally about Giedo’s position within the team. The presence of Heikki Kovalainen as the team’s reserve driver has not quelled the speculation of an early exit from F1 for the Dutchman. However, his performance in Monaco showed signs of promise and a much needed recovery. On a damp Saturday afternoon, Giedo delivered a spectacular Q1 time and managed the haul his Caterham into the second session – a feat not yet achieved by his teammate. While circumstances worked in his favour, it was still an impressive performance and around the streets of Monte-Carlo no less.
Results have undoubtedly improved since Monaco. In both the British and German Grand Prix, Giedo outperformed Max Chilton for only the second and third time. Furthermore, the Hungarian Grand Prix marked his most impressive result yet, as he finished ahead of both Marussia’s and ahead of Pic for the first time. Leading on from this magnificent achievement, Giedo will hope to attain some consistency throughout the second half of this season, taking full advantage of the excellent development made by the team on the CT-03, coupled with the benefit of the 2012 construction tyres which favour Caterham.
However, this may be easier said than done. Throughout his career, Giedo has struggled to maintain consistent results regardless of the level of competition or any advantages in machinery. His only title came in the admittedly tough Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2008 whilst he also held the role of Force India test driver. Meanwhile, his GP2 title challenge last season was scuppered by inconsistent performances which saw his finish a disappointing P6 in the championship, despite claiming two race victories along the way at Spain and Singapore.
In addition to this, Giedo has unfortunately demonstrated several flaws in general race craft throughout the season. Collisions with Pastor Maldonado in Monaco and a race ending accident with Mark Webber in Canada are the prime examples. These are mistakes which his closest rivals are not making and this will have a severe negative impact on his reputation if improvements are not conducted.
In conclusion, a poor start to the season could be blamed on inadequate car performance. His first five races were simply not good enough and Giedo himself will have recognised this. However, this excuse is now invalidated as Caterham have made a giant leap past a seemingly stationary Marussia team and Giedo will face more pressure than ever if his performances do not reflect the strengths of the current package. However, recent signs are very positive and I am personally confident that Giedo can challenge Charles Pic throughout the next nine races.    

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