The season opener in Australia provided Formula One back stories which were of a level of drama, not seen in recent years. The phoenix from the ashes Marussia Manor F1 team each session was eagerly anticipated on track – but in the end, they delivered a complete ‘no show’.
But the most dramatic story preceding the race weekend, was Sauber in court being humiliated before the world over their willful breach of Giedo van der Garde’s driver contract.
Ultimately, Van der Garde was vindicated and allegedly received $16m from the team that had ditched him because another driver brought greater funds than his contract promised.
Yet lurking in the background was another driver – equally usurped of his rights by Sauber – Adrian Sutil.
When Sauber announced at the US grand prix they were to ditch their 2015 contracted drivers and field two new drivers for this year, the BBC revealed Sutil’s response. “They’ve confirmed two drivers but that doesn’t mean they can drive and it doesn’t mean the team’s going to drive.”
Team boss Monisha Kaltenborn said at he time: “I am very clearly aware of my situation,” adding, “I know what I’m doing.”
Clearly Monisha was wrong. She had no idea what she was doing and without the goodwill of Giedo van der Garde, the team would not have raced in Australia this year and Monisha and Peter Sauber would have been detained at the pleasure of the Australian legal system.
Despite having dispatched the van der Garde claim for an eye-watering level of compensation, Sauber still have the outstanding matter of their other driver who also suffered a breach of contract – Adrian Sutil.
Unlike van der Garde who pressed to be allowed to drive this year, Adrian Sutil filed a suit in Switzerland, seeking “compensation rather than a forced reinstatement” from the Hinwil-based team.
The Sauber team has not resolved the matter, and the state of play remains the same as when reported by Blick in early March. “We have terminated his [Sutil] contract,” Kaltenborn stated, “but we had good reason. We made our decision in the interest of the team and its 330 employees.”
This legal stance failed for Sauber when contesting Van der Garde’s claim – and will almost certainly do so again when the Swiss team contest Sutil’s petition.
The London school of Economics should possibly reconsider its award of a legal degree to Monisha Kaltenborn, because the ‘greater good’ is not – and has never been – a proper argument for terminating a specific and binding contract without proper recompense.
With an almost identical contract to Van der Garde in his possession, Finland’s Turun Sanomat newspaper is reporting that Adrian Sutil has this week launched legal proceedings against Sauber in a Barcelona court.
Of course the outcome is uncertain, but the precedence of the Supreme Court of Victoria’s rulings may well influence the Spanish judiciary to rule in a similar fashion.
Adrian Sutil is now the reserve driver for Williams F1 and may feel he is under less pressure to give dispensation for Sauber to race in the Spanish GP – as van der Garde did in Australia.