In just 12 short minutes, the court in Victoria has just upheld the judgement previously granted in Switzerland, which forces Sauber to provide a car for Giedo van der Garde to drive this weekend. This will see either Felipe Nasr or Marcus Ericsson forced to sit out the F1 season opener in Australia.
Giedo van der Garde had a contract to drive for Sauber in 2015, which was disregarded by the Swiss Formula One team in favour of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. The team claim they were short of cash and the extra sponsorship these new drivers brought was vital to the on going survival of the team.
It became evident during the proceedings that Giedo van der Garde was not even offered the courtesy of a discussion on the matter and discovered only following a press release stating Felipe Nasr would be driving for Sauber in 2015, that his contract had been dropped.
Sauber claimed on Monday in the Supreme Court in Victoria that there was insufficient time for them to prepare a car safely for van der Garde to drive this weekend and it would be “dangerous” and “put lives at risk”. Sauber lawyer added, “Mr. van der Garde has no experience driving the c34 Ferrari and would not have sufficient time to learn.”
Despite these dramatic claims, the justice Croft was unmoved and declared Sauber’s safety concerns as invalid. He announced, “The application is successful and … will be enforced.”
Ironically van der Garde’s defence team reminded the court of how in 2011, Pedro de la Rosa stepped still clad in his McLaren overalls stepped into the Sauber on Friday lunchtime in Montreal after Sergio Perez was declared unfit.
Giedo was clearly delighted with the verdict and declared, “I’m very fit and very strong. I’m looking forward to going back to the team and we’ll work hard to do our best for this weekend. I’m the fittest ever, I’ve been training the last three months flat out, and I’m looking forward to going back to the team. I had a very good relationship, I still have a very good relation with the team. I’m looking forward to racing this weekend.”
“It’s up to them what they are going to do, and up to the team. It’s not my thing.
“I’m happy that we won the case, and that we stand here. Now I’m looking forward to getting back to business.”
Justice Croft stated his decision is not a reflection of the merits of Van der Garde’s case but based solely upon the law. Further the judge stated his decision applies not just to this weekend, but to “the whole of the F1 season”.
Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn has in masters degree in International Law from the London School of Economics and worked for the UN Commission for International Trade Law.
Kaltenborn was loose with her words during the weekend of the US Grand Prix in Austin last year when she commented to journalists that, “contracts in F1 are worth nothing”.
Following the judgement, Kaltenborn reflected: “We need to take time to understand what it means and the impact it will have on the start of our season.What we cannot do is jeopardise the safety of our team, or any other driver on the track, by having an unprepared driver in a car that has now been tailored to two other assigned drivers”
Tom Clarke, Giedo van der Garde’s lawyer, claims his client has been attempting this week to contact the Sauber team, but his communication has not received a response. “Mr Van der Garde remains ready, willing and able to perform his obligations. He wishes to meet with the team. He wishes to have his seat … organised and he can do so forthwith.
“Unfortunately our email last night at 7:44 (p.m. local time) has gone unresponded to but we would call upon Sauber Motor Sport AG to fulfill it’s obligations and meet with Mr. Sauber forthwith.”
It should be noted that Adrian Sutil is also pursuing legal action against Sauber because he too had a contract to race for the team this year.
Some F1 journalists are questioning van der Garde’s actions, however this is an important decision to remind team’s who play fast and loose with legally binding driver contracts to be more careful before they commit ink to parchment.
Sauber played a risky game claiming in a court of law that putting an unprepared driver in their car could lead to death, because once again Formula One has been dragged into farce before the eyes of the world.
Sauber have decided to lodge an appeal which will be heard in a few hours time. This of course delays them having to agree to a seat fitting for Giedo van der Garde.
You can read the full judgement of Justice Croft and the Australian Supreme Court in Victoria here