Giedo van der Garde. I had been following him since Verstappen mentored his karting season in 2002 and was picked up by the Renault young driver development. Which he was booted from. He had a spell with McLaren as a young driver, but a lack of results meant he got the boot there as well. While the likes of Hamilton and Vettel were winning races in F1 Euroseries, he was finishing 3rd to 6th. He went to FR 3.5 and became champion, finally showing some of that promise he had earlier.
Then he moved to GP2 and had an utterly inconsistent season in 2011 (despite having a very good car and winning the teams championship with then and current team mate Pic) after a disappointing one in 2010. He had a lot of run-ins with Bianchi in 2011 as well, which is why they were less than friendly at Suzuka after the crash.
In 2012, he was out of a top team, but dragged his Caterham GP2 to victories and 6th in the standings. Still, he was somewhat inconsistent, as he couldn’t get it on the podium every race.
When he was signed to Caterham for F1, I didn’t think much of it (it hardly gets any coverage in Dutch media as well) and figured he’d be more like Albers than a Verstappen. But he has impressed with some of his qualifying outings and has been finishing in front of Pic more often than I imagined.
Not sure it’s enough to warrant a second season in F1, but he did a lot better than I expected of him.
@npf1 VDG is proving to be a very solid driver (with some decent backing too). Other than Jos the Boss, Giedo could also become a Dutch Pedro Diniz – someone who ended up earning his place on the grid, money or not.
As for my surprises, one that hasn’t been mentioned: Webber not winning a race (yet) this season. I was expecting more from Mark, TBH.