Crash.Net GP2 News
Caterham tempts van der Garde back to GP2
25 February 2012
Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde looks set to return to GP2 in 2012, after agreeing to race for Caterham Racing in the feeder series this year.
The reports follow the announcement earlier this month that van der Garde had been signed up as Caterham F1's test and reserve driver for 2012. He made his début in the Grand Prix car two weeks ago during testing at Jerez
The news of van der Garde's signing is expected to be formally confirmed by the Caterham team on Monday, along with an announcement as to who his 2012 team mate will be.
This would be van der Garde's fourth full season in GP2, after stints with iSport in 2009 and two years with Barwa Addax in 2010 and 2011. Van der Garde had looked set to be one of the main challengers for last year's championship and went into an early joint lead with iSport's Sam Bird.
But after the strong start to the season, van der Garde's progress faltered as the season progressed. He found himself pushed down the rankings by the dominance of Romain Grosjean and by late surges from the likes of Jules Bianchi and Luca Filippi, as well as strong competition from his Barwa Addax team mate Charles Pic (who will himself now make his F1 début in 2012 with Marussia.)
Van der Garde had previously said that he wasn't interested in another year in GP2 and that it was F1-or-nothing in 2012, but Caterham has presented him with an opportunity that gives the 26-year-old the best of both worlds.
"I am very happy to gain F1 experience and race GP2 with Caterham Racing team at the same time," said van der Garde, explaining why he was tempted back into GP2 after all. "The combination of testing and developing with the Caterham F1 Team and racing GP2 with the same team is ideal for me.
"This means that I will go to all the F1 races, and racing a full GP2 season too which keeps me sharp," he added. "Spending the whole year with the F1 team on the road, and with only a few days of Friday practice available, you miss the rhythm. I just want to continue racing next year."
Van der Garde also sees a return to GP2 as a way of using his experience in the series to help boost his Caterham squad to a new level in the feeder series.
"Last season the team had a decent year, but with ups and downs," he explained. "I have over the years quite a bit of experience in GP2, so I'm going to just try to make it a great team, like Romain Grosjean did with DAMS last year."
Naturally, van der Garde is still focusing on graduating to F1 with Caterham by 2013 and he insisted that "The intent is there from both sides," but he added: "I will also need to perform in the car."
Speaking to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf,
he continued: "I am involved in everything with the F1 team and will also be present for all races. But when I do have to race, my full focus will be on GP2."
Van der Garde will need to jump right into the GP2 car as a busy month ahead looms, with the first official pre-season testing scheduled in Jerez between February 28 and March 1, a second three-day test session to follow in Barcelona and then the start of the season itself in Sepang, Malaysia on March 24-25.
"We must make sure we are well prepared for testing," agreed van der Garde, adding that his aim this year would be to "Consistently score points throughout the season."