Australian Grand Prix: Sauber left in chaos just before opening GP

If Sauber lose their appeal, they could try to pay off Van der Garde if they can find the money

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The Independent Online

Sauber will learn this morning, two days before Sunday’s opening Australian Grand Prix, if they have to race this season with a driver who has never been in the team’s new car, and drop a contracted driver who brings in much-needed cash.

The Supreme Court of Victoria in Australia yesterday upheld Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde’s contention that he has a contract to drive for Sauber this season. He was dropped as a test driver last season when the team signed Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr as their drivers for 2015, both bringing more money to the cash-strapped team.

“I’m looking forward to racing this weekend”, the Dutchman said yesterday, before Sauber’s appeal was heard early this morning.

Sauber’s team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn, herself a lawyer, said of yesterday’s ruling: “We are disappointed with this decision. 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 drivers.”

However, Van der Garde has raced for Caterham, is fit, and has driven before for Sauber, who retain a seat specially formed to his body.

If Sauber lose their appeal, they could try to pay off Van der Garde if they can find the money, but it is thought the 29-year-old wants to drive, which would force the team to drop either Ericsson or Nasr. As both drivers have contracts, that could involve huge compensation as well as the loss of sponsorship money.

Last year’s Sauber driver Adrian Sutil, who was also dropped, claims still to have a year to run on his driving contract and is also understood to be threatening litigation.