Long struggle culminates in F1 debut for van der Garde

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In 2007, Giedo van der Garde was embroiled in a contract dispute between two back-of-the-grid Formula 1 teams, Spyker and Super Aguri. Each had announced he would be their reserve driver, with Spyker eventually prevailing, but he never participated in a race weekend.

Times have changed. Spyker is now Force India, Super Aguri defunct barely after the 2008 season. And van der Garde, well on the radar of a race seat then but having fallen into relative obscurity since, re-entered the frame with Caterham as one of its reserve drivers a year ago.

Van der Garde participated in five of the last six Friday free practice one sessions, six in total in 2012, and has been confirmed as a race driver for the team this season. At 27, he’s the oldest rookie on the grid by a full four years.

“The main thing for me is that my dream is coming true,” he told the Formula 1 official website in a “rookie diary.” “I told my Dad when I was very young that I was going to be an F1 driver and now it’s happening. I never stopped working for it, never stopped believing it would happen, and with the help and support of a lot of very good people, I’m where I want to be.”

The 2007 season also marked the last time a Dutch driver was on the grid, when Christijan Albers raced for Spyker.

Van der Garde has spent the last four seasons in GP2, and raced in the World Series by Renault before that. He and Caterham teammate Charles Pic, only a sophomore in F1 at age 23, were teammates with the Barwa Addax team in GP2 in 2011.

As a rookie in a team that has yet to score a point in three seasons, expectations are minimal, other than gaining experience and furthering car development.

“Do I feel under pressure? No,” he said. “Not from the team as we’re realistic about what we can do this year. The pressure that does exist is from myself and my trainer. We are preparing as well as possible for the year ahead, but that’s good pressure, the sort that motivates you and pushes you to perform. But pressure on track? No. I know what to do – the team have helped me prepare as well as possible and I’m ready for what’s ahead.”

See also:

F1’s five rookies for 2013: what you need to know

Inside the mind of an F1 rookie

 

F1 Mexican Grand Prix on NBC, NBCSN, App this week

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Lewis Hamilton is poised to wrap his fourth Formula 1 World Championship early at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, as NBC Sports covers the 18th of 20 rounds this season from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

Expanded TV coverage comes this weekend on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

All sessions will air live. Both Friday practice sessions are live on NBCSN at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET. Saturday third practice airs live via the NBC Sports App at 11 a.m. ET with a practice replay show at 12:30 p.m. before live qualifying at 2 p.m. ET, those two on NBCSN.

On Sunday, race day, F1 Countdown starts at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC leading to lights out and the race at 3 p.m. ET. Post-race coverage continues on NBC for one hour, from 5 to 6 p.m. ET.

Mercedes AMG Petronas has won both Mexican Grands Prix since the race was reinstated in 2015 after a 23-year hiatus. Nico Rosberg won in 2015 a race after Hamilton had clinched that year’s title, while Hamilton won last year in a 1-2 with Rosberg continuing to close on his first title.

Controversy reined about third place in Mexico last year with all of Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and ultimately Daniel Ricciardo ending in third, Ricciardo getting the podium after post-race penalties were assessed to the other two. Valtteri Bottas is the other active podium finisher in Mexico, having come third in 2015 with Williams.

Vettel enters Mexico 66 points behind Hamilton and can only keep the title alive to Brazil if he gets the gap under 50 points; any top-five finish for Hamilton will ensure the Englishman equals Vettel on four titles. So if Vettel doesn’t finish first or second, he can’t score enough points (either 25 or 18) to get that gap under 50 markers.

Last year’s race featured a bit of a “Noah’s Ark” finishing order with just the top five teams in the championship scoring points at this race, almost in descending order of just two-by-two. It was two Mercedes, then two Red Bulls, then two Ferraris, then Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India before the two Williams, and finally hometown hero Sergio Perez in the second Force India.

Perez is the lone home favorite this race with Esteban Gutierrez not on the grid this season.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 3 (Replay): Saturday, Oct. 28, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m.-3:45 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 2:30 p.m.-3 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 29, 8:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Brazilian Grand Prix, on November 12.