Jarno Trulli has again felt the need to claim that his seat at Caterham F1 is safe for the 2012 season, as the rumour mill adds the team's new reserve driver, Giedo van der Garde, to the list of possible replacements for the Italian.
van der Garde, who is understood to have been signed as much for his sponsorship as his obvious talent behind the wheel, got a maiden run in the new CT01 before
Trulli at Jerez last week, slotting in between Heikki Kovalainen, who enjoyed two days in the cockpit, and Trulli, who rounded out the test on Friday. Although he proved to be the slowest man around the Spanish circuit, van der Garde admitted that there was more to come as he adjusted to F1 from GP2 and completed his first laps since the feeder series' finale last September.
van der Garde's arrival puts extra pressure on Trulli, who has long been rumoured to be facing opposition from Lotus Renault refugee Vitaly Petrov, who was reportedly in contention for the reserve role at Hingham. While the Russian has also been linked to a possible role with tyre supplier Pirelli, Trulli has felt compelled to rebut suggestions that he place in the line-up may be under threat.
Unbeknown to many, the Caterham team stayed on at Jerez to complete filming for promotional purposes, and Trulli's presence as the driver of the lone CT01 chassis is being seen as a positive sign that the sole remaining Italian in the F1 field will indeed be part of the circus this season.
Although Pedro de la Rosa's return ensures that Trulli is still some way from being the oldest driver on the grid, at 37 he is some way ahead of the majority, with van der Garde stepping up from GP2 at the relatively late age of 26. The Dutchman, who has been linked with several teams in recent years - including being named as reserve by both Spyker and Super Aguri in the space of a couple of months - is confident of getting another run in the CT01 despite the need for the team's race pairing to get comfortable in their new mount.
"It was not easy for me to fully exploit the new tyres and brakes, but it will be better at the next test," he told France's Auto Hebdo
magazine, "The team is happy with my performance, and I hope to do another test before the season starts."