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Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Feb 2012   |  10:53 am GMT  |  13 comments

More than three years on from his last appearance behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, and Dutchman Giedo van der Garde has been handed his biggest chance at motorsport’s top level yet after Caterham announced him as its reserve driver for 2012.

The Tony Fernandes-owned team says the 26-year-old, who last year finished fifth in the GP2 Series, will make his debut for the squad in the forthcoming pre-season tests and then, like his predecessors in the role Fairuz Fauzy and Karun Chandhok, will “take part in a number” of Friday morning practice sessions during the course of the season.

Fernandes believes the former Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion is a “very exciting prospect” and his signing represents a significant coup for Caterham.

“We are delighted to welcome Giedo into the family as reserve driver. He is a very exciting prospect that we have been monitoring since the early days of our team, and we are all looking forward to seeing how he can help us develop throughout the season as we take our next steps towards the established midfield teams ahead,” the Malaysian team boss said.

“His performances in GP2, particularly in 2011, mark Giedo out as one of motorsport’s brightest prospects, and securing him as Reserve Driver is a real coup for our team. I am sure he will flourish on and off track, and we wish him all the best as he takes the next step into Formula 1 with us.”

Whenever van der Garde competes in a practice session for the first time, he will become the first Dutch driver to feature in a grand prix weekend since Christijan Albers last raced for Spyker in 2007.

Van der Garde feels he is joining a team on the up and is proud to be able to put the Netherlands – whose colourful fans famously provided a loyal following for ex-Benetton and Arrows racer Jos Verstappen in the 1990s and early 2000s – back on the F1 map.

“I’m very happy to become a part of the Caterham F1 Team family today and I’m very excited about the next step in my career within Formula 1. The team is fresh, with some fantastic people here. Tony Fernandes is extremely ambitious and he has brought in a lot of very good people in to help grow this team for future success. I’m looking forward to learning and moving forward with the team, in and out of the car” he said.

“It’s great for Holland that we again have a Dutch driver who is connected to Formula 1. Being the only Dutch driver now is very good for the sport in Holland, as the interest was perhaps on the decline since the Verstappen years, however I hope to generate the same excitement for my country and really bring Formula 1 to them.

“I feel that the team as a whole is very ambitious. They appear to be very positive people and I think they are building up, growing and developing very quickly. I think this year they will be strong contenders! We’ll see after the test but I really have a feeling that it’s a big family here and they are pushing very hard to move up the grid.”

Van der Garde last drove an F1 car when he appeared for Renault at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya in November 2008, the majority of his testing experiences having come the previous year when he appeared for both Super Aguri and Spyker,

It was his switch between the then two back-of-the-grid rivals that provoked controversy at the time as Super Aguri claimed it had already signed the Dutchman to a test and reserve role itself.

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13 Comments
  1. vvipkho says:

    Huge Welcome to Caterham family ..

  2. Dutch Johnny says:

    Hello james,

    How do you rate Van der Garde as a driver?
    Here in holland many people dont rate hime very highly as a driver. They say the only chance he has as a driver is because of his financiel backing. Can you shed a light on this?

  3. goferet says:

    Uh, this is bad news for Petrov for with Van der Garde becoming Caterham’s driver, this can only mean the team have decided to keep Trulli so Van der Garde will take over that drive when Trulli hangs up his helmet.

    And from what I have read, Petrov’s problem has been that the sponsorship money from Russia hasn’t been forthcoming and that’s the same reason he lost the Lotus drive.

    I just hope for Van der Garde’s sake that he didn’t miss the boat for 26 is rather later late to learn the ins and outs of the sport more so in a backmarker team.

    1. Kevin Green says:

      Cant see Trulli getting another season they have nothing to lose taking on Petrov for a single season at least with money or not, is Trulli not a paid driver? I believe so.

      I reckon Heki has shown more than enough maturity and ability over the last couple of years to take the leading drivers role (he is clearly the golden boy anyway).

      And I reckon they would do well to chance it on Petrov with the option of switching to/experimenting with the young gun as the season progresses of Petrov dont shine.

  4. Paul says:

    van der Garde is nothing special at all. He hasn’t won a race in GP2 since 2009 and he was beaten by Perez and Pic in the same team who are much less experienced.

    I assume he might be in a prime position to get a few drives towards the end of the season if Trulli continues to be underwhelming

  5. Dan Orsino says:

    a little baffling that with a fair number of talented young drivers, already proven and tested as F1 drivers, and laid off this year, we are going after the new and untested ….

    1. Kevin Green says:

      All the past talent have surely not been deemed good enough to be front runners.
      Suppose they are just all hoping to hit the next superstar that will compete at the front.

      This is probably the biggest problem with the limited testing in the current F1 cars its hard for them to gauge how good the drivers are so rather than waste the limited test days on ” a loose gamble” give them selected session’s on race weekend practice days as they did to ensure the correct discovery of Paul De Rista.

      On that though its barely fare on the current drivers who rely on as much practice as possible to keep in tune with the car for the obvious benefits come Qualifying and race days.

      Bring back unlimited practice cut back on the aero!

  6. BARRIE STIRLING says:

    JUST SEEN THE NEW MCLAREN LOOKS AWESOME HOPEFULLY CAN CHALLENGE RED BULL THIS YEAR

  7. Irish con says:

    It’s a shame that all the teams don’t do this. I always like to see other people get there chances. Like even tho I don’t think chandok is good enough for f1 I think he still deserved his chances last year.

    1. JT says:

      By “this”, do you mean picking GP2 drivers with average track records who come with sponsorship?

      1. Irish con says:

        The list of standout gp2 drivers over the years to come into f1 has not been exactly great has it. Would petrov or Maldonado just to name a few have been in f1 if not for money backing. Give the guy a chance though.

  8. Darren says:

    Got to love Caterham ( team lotus ) think they are becoming a very popular team. Seem to be everyone’s first or second teams

  9. Rob Newman says:

    I can’t believe this guy is coming back to F1. Same as HRT signing Karthikeyan.

    F1 is becoming a joke with all these pay drivers. Talented drivers are losing out. I was wondering why James didn’t do a report on Karthikeyan filling the HRT seat. Probably he too couldn’t be bothered.

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