Sauber has today announced that Giedo van der Garde has been signed as its official reserve and test driver.
The 27-year-old had been on the fringes of Formula 1 for a number of years before finally getting a full-time drive with Caterham last year. He enjoyed a number of headline-grabbing qualifying performances in mixed conditions at Monaco and Belgium, which were among the biggest highlights in what were generally very predictable Saturday sessions.
“Many times Giedo has shown his talent as a race driver,” Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said of the team’s latest signing.
“At the same time the team would like to support him to further develop his skills. Giedo has the right attitude to take the next step forward.”
The team has confirmed that van der Garde will have ‘some’ Friday practice outings for the team and several test appearances over the course of the 2014 season. It will mark the first time that the Swiss outfit has deployed a designated Friday driver on an ongoing basis.
Van der Garde is certainly hopeful that his Friday performances will prove the launchpad for a full-time return to racing in 2015.
“I consider this an important step in my career,” he said.
“It is my goal to help the team with the development of the new car. But, of course, I am a racing driver, and I want to show the team and everybody else what I am capable of and that I deserve a race seat with the Sauber F1 Team in 2015. After all, my ambition remains unchanged and I am highly motivated to succeed in Formula One, especially in the long term.
“I am really very excited to have signed a contract with the Sauber F1 Team. For every driver it is a dream to work for a well established team such as Sauber. In recent years it has shown impressive results. I am really grateful for this opportunity and I will certainly do my upmost to succeed.”
He also paid tribute to Caterham, with him he raced in the GP2 Series before they gave him his F1 race debut.
“I am very thankful to Caterham that they gave me a chance to get a taste of Formula One. I enjoyed a fantastic season with the team and I have learned a lot. The experience gained will surely help me during the rest of my career.”
Interestingly, Sauber’s press release did no make mention of how van der Garde’s appointment will affect that of its protégé driver, Sergey Sirotkin, the Russian teenager who arrived on the scene as part of a major cash investment from a Russian consortium.
Van der Garde’s appointment to Sauber – coupled with yesterday’s news that his teammate Charles Pic has parted ways with Caterham – paves the way for his former employer to confirm an all-new driver line-up for the 2014 F1 season.
The team is widely expected to announce Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson in its line-up, possibly as soon as today.