Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde says Daniel Ricciardo’s promotion to Red Bull, along with Sergio Perez deal with McLaren, has given him hope of progressing up the ladder in Formula 1.
Earlier this week, Red Bull announced that Ricciardo, who made his F1 debut with HRT at the 2011 British Grand Prix, would partner Sebastian Vettel at the team next year.
And this season, Sergio Perez, who debuted with Sauber at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix, is racing alongside Jenson Button at McLaren as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton.
Speaking in the latest edition of the JA on F1 podcast, which is coming soon, Van der Garde, 28, said: “For them [Ricciardo and Perez] it’s a great opportunity. I’m still very good friends with Checo and I know he’s very happy with McLaren. The results are not going as planned, but he said the team is pushing hard and he’s happy.
“It’s good to see Ricciardo get a seat next to Vettel for next season and I hope he does well. Of course it’s encouraging. I still keep on pushing and see where I end up.”
Van der Garde was a test driver for Spyker in 2007 and Force India in 2008. But his big chance came when he teamed up with Caterham. In 2012, he was given a run of drives in Friday practice sessions before being promoted to a race drive for the first time this season.
“It’s tough to come to Formula 1,” he said. “It took more years than expected to get here. It’s a tough life but once here, I think I’ve proven myself to be quick enough and belong here.”
The Dutchman struggled at the start of 2013, alongside team-mate Charles Pic who is in his second year in the sport, but has improved as the season has gone on, with the highlight being a P3 in Q1 of Belgian Grand Prix qualifying.
“The last couple of races have been going really well,” he added. “I see a lot of progression in myself, in the car and in the team. Yes, I’m very happy at the moment.”
Van der Garde said that he struggled with this year’s tyres during the races but following Pirelli’s decision to tweak the construction mid-season, he is feeling much more comfortable on them.
“I had some experience in GP2 but F1 is a different game so it took some time to get used to it,” he added. “But the main problem for me was the tyres. I was struggling with them, but after a few races I started to understand them better and my form started to go upwards.
“My style was a little bit too aggressive for the tyres, especially at the beginning of the season. They were heating up a bit too much so it was quite tough in the race as I had problems with degradation.
“Once I got the new [spec] tyres, I could employ my own driving style again. I’m a bit of a driver who likes to lean on the tyres. Now it’s going really well, I can drive the way I always did. I think the tyres have gone back to last year in terms of degradation. The tyres don’t heat up in the rear so much.”
Van der Garde is 21st in the drivers’ standings, with a best finish of 14th which he achieved in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
You can hear more from Giedo van der Garde in the September edition of the JA on F1 podcast which is coming soon. It also features an interview with Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams while former Williams chief engineer Mark Gillan analyses Red Bull’s decision to take Daniel Ricciardo.