Giedo van der Garde is looking forward to getting back on track at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, hoping that Caterham continues to build on a solid weekend in Australia.
Although his run was affected by an early collision that damaged his CT03, the Dutchman was happy to get a full race distance under his belt as the F1 circus gears up for one of the hardest weekends of its schedule. Having already sampled the extremes that Sepang can throw at a driver, having raced there several times in GP2, van der Garde knows that managing tyres in the highest temperatures seen so far this season will be key in the battle with Marussia, which went the way of the Banbury team 'down under'.
“Sepang gives us an interesting challenge,” he confirmed, “We haven't seen track temperatures in pre-season or in Australia close to what we'll have this week and, as the circuit evolves quite a bit over the weekend, managing degradation levels from Friday through to Sunday will be critical. We saw in Australia that our car performed well on the primes, so we'll look to build on that this weekend.
“The cars run pretty high downforce levels at Sepang and that helps throughout the lap, but one of the key areas we'll work on in the practice sessions will be maximising our pace in the really quick corners. Something the engineers have told me is that, since the team came into the sport in 2010, their cars have always performed better in hot temperatures, so let's see if that continues this year!”
The heat and humidity of Malaysia will also put extra strain on the drivers and team personnel, and van der Garde wasted little time after his Melbourne debut before beginning his acclimatisation.
“After Sunday, I went straight to Malaysia as it's important to start adjusting to the heat,” he explained, “I raced in GP2 there last year, but F1 is a big step up in terms of the physical and mental preparations you need to make, so my trainer and I had a busy programme planned to make sure I'm ready for every session in the car.
“Hydration is particularly important in that preparation and I'll be building up the amount of liquids I take on board throughout the week to around six litres on race day, as well as spending as much time as possible outside and away from air-con so I can acclimatise quickly.”
Van der Garde, who won the final race of last year's GP2 campaign for the Caterham team, will sport a special one-off crash helmet design this weekend to mark the Leafield squad's links with Malaysia.
“We have a really busy week away from the circuit in Sepang,” he noted, “Last year, we had a fantastic reception from the Malaysian fans and I think this year it's going to be a great feeling to race [there]. I have a special surprise planned just for this race, a new crash helmet design that we've worked on that I think the Malaysian fans will love! We'll unveil the design during the week and I'm excited to see people's reaction to it. Our crash helmet designs are one of the best ways drivers have to express something cool and it's a chance for me to show what it means to me to take part in our home race. I can't wait to get started – it's going to be a great week!”