Sauber risk having cars impounded at the Australian Grand Prix amid row over reinstating driver Giedo van der Garde

The team have three drivers under contract, but just two drives

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The Independent Online

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn risks contempt of court proceedings if she decides against reinstating driver Giedo van der Garde ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

Kaltenborn must find a solution to the conundrum of 'three into two' as she has three drivers with contracts - Van der Garde, Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson - but only two seats available.

Van der Garde was axed by Sauber from his role as test driver at the end of last year as the Swiss-based marque employed Ericsson and Nasr.

It is understood Swede Ericsson and Brazilian Nasr brought in sponsorship revenue superior to that of Van der Garde at a time last season when the team were desperately struggling financially.

Despite possessing a contract stating he was to be given a full-time drive this season, trained lawyer Kaltenborn opted to cancel Van der Garde's deal.

Van der Garde has since pursued Sauber through the courts in recent weeks, initially via an arbitration panel in Switzerland that ordered the team "to refrain from taking action" that would deny the Dutchman a drive.

That decision was then upheld on Wednesday by the Supreme Court in Victoria, Australia, following a hearing on Monday.

Although Sauber immediately launched an appeal, that has now been rejected following the latest hearing on Thursday.

The head of the appeals panel remarked: "The appeal is dismissed because we see no error in the reasoning of the trial judge."

Van der Garde is now pursuing an enforcement of the order to ensure Sauber comply, with that hearing scheduled for 10.30am local time on Friday (11.30pm UK Thursday), just two hours prior to the start of first practice for the season-opening race at Melbourne.

Speaking outside court, Van der Garde said: "Sauber has to work with us now. There is no other issue."

Should Sauber decline, failure to comply could result in the sequestration of the team's assets, and prospect of action being taken against Kaltenborn given her position as a director.

The paddock at Albert Park could witness the sight of police and/or bailiffs turning up to impound the team's cars as part of the order.

It is an unsavoury mess to start the new F1 season, with Sauber's lawyers attempting numerous delaying tactics over the course of the past few days to stretch the matter beyond the race weekend.

The Victoria Supreme Court justices, however, have been swift to act and have on occasion lost patience with Sauber's legal chicanery.

Sauber.jpg
Giedo van der Garde contends that he has a contract to drive for Sauber this season

 

Van der Garde, though, still has to acquire a super licence required to compete in F1, and which can take up to a fortnight to process.

That has to be done by the national motor sport authority in Holland, KNAF, albeit with Van der Garde confirming Sauber has to play their part, and appreciably they would be reluctant to do so.

Despite that, Van der Garde said: "I'm confident the super licence can be fast-tracked."

Should the paperwork be rushed through and Van der Garde takes up a seat, Kaltenborn then has to decide whether to drop Ericsson or Nasr.

Neither man is likely to want to cede their drive, which could again lead to a further turn of a vicious circle and more legal proceedings.

Former Sauber driver Felipe Massa, now with Williams, speaking ahead of the appeal verdict, feels Van der Garde was right to pursue his case via the legal system.

Massa, speaking in the Albert Park paddock, said: "It shouldn't be the way people should be treating drivers. They should respect drivers.

"A driver can be quite powerful. We are working here, we need the work, the career, so it's not fair when people treat you the way he has been treated. It doesn't matter if you are a driver or an engineer.

"Everyone should be treated fairly, and if there is a contract then that should be respected because there are rules and they have to be followed.

"Sometimes you hear stories in F1 of drivers having a contract with a team and they just get kicked out, or drivers who are owed money.

"Giedo is a good example. Drivers should stand up for their rights, so I see it as a good thing for all drivers, but also anyone in F1 as they should be treated the same as any worker in the world."

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