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.