Caterham’s driver line-up has been completed after the team announced on Friday that Giedo van der Garde will partner Charles Pic in 2013. Van der Garde was the team’s test driver in 2012 while he raced in GP2, and has now been promoted into a full-time F1 race seat.
The choice of drivers for 2013 shows a dramatic change in strategy for the Caterham team. In 2012, the extremely experienced Finn Heikki Kovalainen led the team and was partnered by Russian Vitaly Petrov, who had two seasons under his belt before arriving at Caterham. For 2013, Pic is the senior driver, but he only driven in F1 for a single season at Marussia, and Van der Garde is a rookie.
The reasons for the change in driver selection policy are clear – the team wants to move forward technically, and to do that it needs more money. Kovalainen was paid a salary last year, while Petrov brought sponsorship to the team. This year, both drivers bring funding to the team. Nonetheless, it is clear that both Pic and Van der Garde are capable behind the wheel. Pic had an impressive debut season, challenging his experienced Marussia team-mate Timo Glock throughout 2012. Van der Garde scored two wins and six podiums on the way to sixth in the 2012 GP2 championship.
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul said of the appointment, “This is the next natural step for Giedo with our team. We continue to grow as a team and we are committed to giving young talent across the motorsport industry the chance to grow with us and this is Giedo’s opportunity to show he deserves his place at the very highest level of global motorsport. He and Charles [Pic] have been team-mates before so he is an excellent choice to partner Charles in what is going to be another very interesting season, and we are all looking forward to seeing Giedo continue to progress as he takes on the ultimate challenge of F1.”
Giedo van der Garde expressed his eagerness to get started in 2013: “I know I am ready to take the step up to F1 and all the work I have done throughout my career, and particularly in the last year with this team, has brought me to my ultimate goal. Throughout 2012 I was able to fully integrate myself into the team, both through the FP1 sessions I ran at a number of tracks that were then new to me, and as Reserve Driver, fully embedded with the team throughout the season.
“Now I can continue to learn at the highest level of motorsport and show that I am ready for F1. I cannot wait to start work.”
The new Caterham F1 car – the CT03 – will be launched at the track in Jerez, Spain on Tuesday 5 February before hitting the track for the start of testing.
Testing for the 2013 Formula One season begins on 5 February, which is just 22 days away. All of the teams will be quite far into their pre-season car development and anticipation for the new season is no doubt building in team factories all over Britain and parts of Europe. But at Caterham, a crucial part of pre-season preparation has yet to be completed – the all-important driver line-up.
Caterham signed Charles Pic towards the end of last year, after the Frenchman impressed during his debut season at Marussia. But the identity of Pic’s team-mate is as yet unknown. Caterham’s 2012 drivers were Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov, and between them they delivered tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship, but it now looks possible that neither will feature on the 2013 grid.
Kovalainen is unusual in a back-of-the-field team in that he was paid a salary by Caterham (formerly Lotus) for the past three seasons – most small-budget teams look for drivers who provide funding from their personal sponsors. Kovalainen has resisted the “pay driver” label and is determined to find a race drive without having to secure his own sponsorship. Unfortunately for the highly regarded Finnish driver, budget is king in a developing team and it therefore comes as no surprise that he is not even in the running to retain his seat at Caterham.
Petrov, on the other hand, has been a pay driver from the start of his Formula One career. After two seasons with Renault (now Lotus), Petrov lost his seat to Romain Grosjean and moved to Caterham, where he was expected to be outpaced by Kovalainen. Instead, the Russian had an impressive 2012, in which he scored a vital 11th place in Brazil to secure tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship for the team. Petrov is expected to remain with Caterham if he can find sufficient funding, but that plan seems to be stalling at the moment as Petrov’s management struggles to secure the necessary sponsorship.
Caterham are reportedly looking at three possible alternatives to Petrov – 2012 Caterham reserve driver Giedo van der Garde, 2012 GP2 runner-up Luis Razia and 2012 Williams driver Bruno Senna – all of whom are expected to bring larger budgets than Petrov. The Russian does have the advantage of three years of Formula One experience, and has completed a full season with Caterham. Whether or not that experience will outweigh the larger budgets of his rivals remains to be seen.
Caterham have announced today that Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde has joined the team as the official Reserve Driver. He will participate in pre-season testing and drive in some of the Free Practice sessions throughout the season.
Van der Garde raced in GP2 in 2011, finishing fifth in the standings for the Barwa Addax team. He was a candidate to drive for Virgin in 2011. With Caterham in 2012, he will be hoping to make a good enough impression to land a race drive in 2013.
Team Principal Tony Fernandes said: “We are delighted to welcome Giedo into the family as Reserve Driver. He is a very exciting prospect that we have been monitoring since the early days of our team, and we are all looking forward to seeing how he can help us develop throughout the season as we take our next steps towards the established midfield teams ahead.
“His performances in GP2, particularly in 2011, mark Giedo out as one of motorsport’s brightest prospects, and securing him as Reserve Driver is a real coup for our team. I am sure he will flourish on and off track, and we wish him all the best as he takes the next step into Formula 1 with us.”
Van der Garde on his appointment: “I’m very happy to become a part of the Caterham F1 Team family today and I’m very excited about the next step in my career within Formula 1. The team is fresh, with some fantastic people here. Tony Fernandes is extremely ambitious and he has brought in a lot of very good people in to help grow this team for future success. I’m looking forward to learning and moving forward with the team, in and out of the car.”
Testing begins on Tuesday 7 February where the new Caterham CT01 car will be in action.