F1 » Giedo van der Garde
The Netherlands has not produced a long list of F1 drivers, just 15 in all, but Giedo van der Garde is hoping that persistence adds his name to those that have gone before.
The Dutchman began his racing career before he entered his teens, and first tasted success by landing a Dutch national title at the age of 13. From there, he progressed the satellite CRG Holland squad onto the international stage, finding his feet with top ten championship finishes in Formula A before graduating and claiming rookie honours in the 2001 International Super A category - and following that up with the world title twelve months later.
That success prompted the move to single-seaters, as van der Garde stepped up to both his national Formula Renault series and the more prestigious Eurocup with the crack van Amersfoort team. The two series yielded fourth and sixth overall, tempting the 18-year old to move up again the following year, plunging himself straight into the F3 Euroseries.
Despite finishing ninth overall in his debut season with Signature, he moved to Team Rosberg for the next year, but still wasn't to win, finishing ninth again in the standings - and with fewer points. Even so, he still managed to engineer a move to the category-leading ASM equipe
for 2006, pitting himself up against team-mates Paul di Resta, Kamui Kobayashi and a certain Sebastian Vettel. While di Resta and Vettel fought over the title, van der Garde had to make do with sixth overall, but finally found the top step of the podium at the Norisring to take his only victory in the category. The same season saw him picked up by McLaren as part of its junior development programme, but it proved to be a brief flirtation that ended without the 21-year old so much as sitting in the Woking team's F1 car.
Behind the scenes, however, the Dutchman had been building solid relationships with sponsors, and this enabled him to graduate to the World Series by Renault for 2007, as well as get his first taste of F1. Again, sixth was to be his lot in the championship standings after a solid debut season with Victory Engineering, while the F1 opportunity was clouded by a tug-of-love between Spyker and Super Aguri, both of whom claimed to have a valid contract for his services. In the end, it was the Dutch-owned team that gave van der Garde his first run in an F1 car.....
Another year in the WSbR beckoned in 2008, with van der Garde joining P1 Motorsport, while continuing with the renamed Force India F1 team in a testing capacity. From the start, the relationship with P1 clicked, allowing van der Garde to win three of the first four races and set himself up for a title shot. A further two wins and three second place finishes eventually saw the Dutchman cruise to the crown by 31 points.
The success, however, failed to raise his stock high enough for him to be picked up for an F1 race seat, and so he turned his attention to the GP2 Series for 2009. Coming off back-to-back campaigns that had brought championship success for Timo Glock and second overall for Bruno Senna, the iSport International team ought to have been a solid platform on which for van der Garde to perform but, despite taking three wins, he only managed seventh overall after a series of below-par results.
Remaining in GP2 for a second season, the Dutchman moved on to Barwa Addax for 2010, but only managed to repeat his championship position - without adding to his victory tally, despite four podium appearances. Having been listed among the candidates for the second seat at Marussia Virgin Racing in F1 - a ride that eventually went to Jerome d'Ambrosio - van der Garde remained with Addax into 2011 and, having claimed third overall in the truncated Asia Series, led the early season main championship standings after a brace of podiums in Turkey and Spain. Wins, however, continued to be hard to come by and, while he remained in title contention until the middle of the campaign, the 26-year old was powerless to prevent Romain Grosjean pulling out an insurmountable lead. Three further podium finishes eventually helped van der Garde cement fifth overall.
Still determined to break into F1, he was named among the candidates for the seat alongside Pastor Maldonado at Williams, but again missed out as Senna's previous experience was preferred. That left a number of reserve roles as alternatives, and van der Garde was eventually snapped up by Caterham - having briefly been rumoured as a possible replacement for team veteran Jarno Trulli.
The relationship had already seen the Dutchman contributing to pre-season testing, and would also see him representing Caterham in the GP2 Series, despite having initially said that he would not return for a fourth year in the category. Amid a couple of race wins in the feeder series, he became an integral part of the Caterham F1 set-up, serving as official reserve driver throughout the 2012 season and taking part in a number of free practice sessions during its second half.
The Dutchman remained a contender for the team's second F1 seat in 2013, alongside former GP2 rival Charles Pic, but it wasn't until the eve of the opening test at Jerez that his graduation was finally confirmed. Given the opportunity to shakedown the new CT02 based on his experience of its predecessor, van der Garde proved to be a match, pace-wise, for his team-mate, but it is hard to see Caterham doing much more than trying to fend off Marussia in the battle for F1's wooden spoon....