Exactly what have you got to lose pootling around the back of the field every grand prix weekend? No pressure, no expectation, all the glitz and glamour. It must be the best job in the world to drive for Caterham, surely?
For Giedo van der Garde, a young budding driver wanting to make his way in the sport in his debut season, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Especially when your results are graded purely against your own teammate and the two Marussia cars.
Here’s how the Dutchman has fared so far in 2013:
Van der Garde achieved his first goal of the season by out-qualifying teammate Charles Pic in Australia, although his Caterham was still an alarming half a second off Max Chilton’s Marussia. He also made a decent start, passing a few cars into the first corner on his supersoft compound tyre until a slow puncture on the medium compound cost him dearly. The net result: 18th and last place behind his rivals. But he confessed himself happy with the start to his F1 career in Caterham’s team press release.
“For me that was a reasonable start to my F1 career. It was really important to finish my first race and that's exactly what I did so I'm pretty happy with how it ended up.”
The Dutchman blamed oversteer on his option tyres en route to a disappointing last on the grid in Malaysia, but he fared better on race day, again starting well to pass cars before good pit work allowed him to get the jump on Max Chilton’s Marussia.
China and Bahrain were less encouraging, with more tyre woes leaving Van der Garde last on the grid and last on race day in China before a collision with Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso on the opening lap destroyed his front wing on the opening lap in Bahrain, effectively ruining his race.
Spain to Monaco: Finding his feet
Things looked rosy in Spain after Van der Garde enjoyed his best qualifying performance of the season, piloting his Caterham to 18th on the grid ahead of Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton and Charles Pic.
And the Dutchman really felt what it was truly like to be a Formula One driver on race day, fighting with Jenson Button and both Williams cars through the first two stints before a problem caused his left rear tyre to become detached, ending his race.
If his Barcelona qualifying performance was good, Monaco was simply stellar. Van der Garde made Q2 and a superb 15th on the grid ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Paul di Resta on merit and comfortably outpaced his teammate and Marussias. He was rightly proud of his effort but as quoted in his team's press release, Van de Garde was rightly keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
Honestly, it's a great feeling, but it's still part of the learning process for me. I've said since the start of the season that I'd make progress, and today showed how far we've all come in just six races, and there's more to come.
Van der Garde made a good start to the race until he was hit by Maldonado, damaging his floor. A loss of KERS on Lap 10 further hampered his progress, but he finished the race to complete an encouraging weekend.
Canada to Germany: Back to the drawing board?
A yellow flag on his final lap hampered his qualifying in Canada before a rookie error saw him chop straight across Mark Webber’s front wing, ruining his and the furious Aussie’s race and giving the stewards no option but to slap a five-place grid penalty for Silverstone. Van der Garde was understandably sheepish based on his quotes in his team’s press release.
Today wasn't a good day for me. I want to say sorry to Mark for the incident we had and I'll make sure I learn from the stewards' decision on the five-place penalty for the next race. Sometimes you make mistakes, but the important thing is to accept them, learn from them and move on.
A race long battle with Max Chilton saw the Marussia finish just ahead at the chequered flag at Silverstone, and Germany produced a mirror image with Chilton again pipping his rival.
Hungary for more
A decent qualifying run in Hungary saw the Dutchman comfortably ahead of his Marussia rivals before a fantastic race saw him finish 14th ahead of his main rivals—a huge fillip going into the remainder of the season, as he said in his press release after Hungary.
I'm really pleased with today's race, for me that was the best race of the year and it's great to put in a performance like that before we head off for the August break. I think it shows that the plan we'd set for this season, about learning and improving race by race, is working as I was right on the pace we'd targeted until about six laps to go when the tyres were pretty much gone.
Giedo’s midseason marks
Who will win the battle of the Caterham drivers?
Race craft: 6/10
Summary: A real mixed bag in his first term, but there's encouragement for the second half.