Is it Time to Reconsider Giedo van der Garde?
At the beginning of the season Giedo van der Garde was one of five new rookies on the grid, and at Caterham made up the second least experienced pairing on the grid (behind Marussia).
It would be fair to say that both Caterham drivers struggled to get the best out of their car to begin with, Giedo arguably more so. There was speculation by the time Silverstone came around that Heikki Kovalainen would be back in a racing seat before the second half of the season started, having been ousted at the end of last year in favour of two ‘pay’ drivers.
So many people had been writing Giedo off before the season had really go going, but is it now time that we reconsidered the heavy criticism that has so far been levelled at him?
Charles Pic initially had comfortably outperformed Giedo in 6 of the first 8 races, and whilst Charles was scrapping with Jules Bianchi for places as high as 13th and 14th, Giedo was left struggling with Max Chilton for the honour of not finishing in last place. Since Germany however, things have been more of a level playing field, with Giedo actually providing more of the stand out moments.
Races in Hungary, Belgium and Singapore have all seen the Dutchman out-perform his teammate, and begin to show a kind of consistency reminiscent of his championship challenging years in GP2.
But perhaps most noticeable have been his qualifying performances that have seen him master wet and drying conditions and feature in two Q2 sessions (one in Monaco, the other in Belgium where he actually set one of the fastest times of anyone in Q1). For sure, qualifying doesn’t get those first points which Caterham so desperately need, but his ability to take advantage of track conditions in his favour has been exemplary, and right now that is probably what the team need.
Charles Pic has been the more consistent driver over the course of the season, but when one twelfth place finish is all the team need to leap-frog Marussia in the standings, is a consistently 16th placed Charles Pic really going to be as useful as someone like Giedo who, at the moment at least, seems more likely to provide a singular standout drive?
The truth of the matter is now that the Dutchman has settled in, there isn’t really much to tell between the two, and has probably done better than Max Chilton or Esteban Gutierrez in their debut seasons. It is of course easy to forget that Pic has had a season under his belt too in a very promising debut at Marussia. News that Tony Fernandes is keen to put Kovalainen back in the car for next season will probably not help Giedo’s plight, but it would appear he now has other options available at Sauber and Williams. He may not be the prime driver for these roles, and his sponsorship package is undoubtedly helping, but by now it is clear that he has upped his game at least to deserve another season in F1.
Time will tell if this is the case, and I suspect that it could be just weeks before the start of the 2014 season until we find out, but it is I think fair to say that the consistent criticism he faced towards the start of the season is for now at least, not entirely justified.
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