Caterham may have only got one car to the chequered flag in Belgium, but there was still much for the team to be proud of, according to Giedo van der Garde.
The Dutchman made a gamble on slicks work in his favour in the opening phase of qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, eventually claiming 14th on the grid for what passes as a home race, but, despite holding fast for a couple of laps, gradually slipped back through the order on race day to find himself racing solely against the Marussias.
“My start was good, I had clear space going into turn one and held 14th place until mid-way through lap two, but then it wasn't really possible to hold off some of the cars who'd started behind us,” van der Garde reported, “Realistically, though, we'd expected that to happen, so I was focused on pulling away from [Jules] Bianchi and [Max] Chilton and giving myself a big enough gap to manage the race we'd planned.”
Despite dropping into the bottom three, the Caterham driver was able to maintain a healthy gap over his direct rivals, and even got to challenge Pastor Maldonado
for position once the Venezuelan had served his penalty for contact with Paul di Resta.
“I started on a set of mediums which we managed well, and my first stop was on lap 15 when we went onto a set of new hards,” he explained, “I rejoined in 19th and that set also worked well until about lap 26, when the rears started to go off. We pushed for another couple of laps and then came in for the second stop on lap 29. The final stint was on another set of hard tyres and, from there, I was well clear of both Marussias and had a really good fight with Maldonado for 16th right to flag, pushing as hard as I could to keep that place.”
Although he eventually came home a couple of seconds ahead of the Williams, 16th was not enough to help Caterham retake the vital tenth position in the constructors' championship from Marussia, which continues to cling on through Bianchi's 13th place in Malaysia even though Caterham has gradually established itself as the better team in 2014. Despite that, van der Garde reckons that Belgium marks another step forward for the Leafield squad.
“Overall, this has been a really good weekend,” he insisted, “It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if it had rained today but, for what was effectively my first home F1 race, I think we got the maximum for the car.
“Saturday was an incredible feeling and I'm really pleased we could give the team, our partners and the fans such a lift in quali – now we have to make sure we can do the same for the rest of the season whenever the chances come our way.”
Team-mate Charles Pic
did not fare quite as well as van der Garde, becoming the race's first retirement on lap eight.
“I passed both Chilton and Bianchi and, by lap eight, was catching my team-mate but then I was told to box as we had an oil leak,” the Frenchman claimed, “We stopped the car to avoid any damage to the new engine we used today.
“Racing's sometimes like this – we had good pace on Friday and Saturday, the car felt well balanced and we'd made some progress. While today's race obviously didn't go to plan, I'm not down about it – we have another chance in Monza in two weeks to continue to build on the gap to our nearest rivals and I'm sure we'll bounce back there.”