Sauber's Australian GP participation under cloud

Melbourne: The Sauber Formula One squad’s participation in the Australian Grand Prix continues to remain in doubt with the legal tussle between the Swiss squad and former reserve driver Giedo van der Garde over his right to race in the season-opener hanging over the franchise.

Van der Garde
Van der Garde

Van der Garde had filed a lawsuit against Sauber in the Supreme Court of Victoria seeking enforcement of an earlier ruling in Switzerland that said Van der Garde had a valid contract to race one of the team’s two cars.

“Well, that’s a topic I can’t say anything about,” team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, a lawyer by profession, said, dodging questions from reporters on the topic. “Just to make it clear, any questions about that I will not be able to answer.”

Sauber, who are in a precarious financial position, unveiled  Brazilian Felipe Nasr and Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson, both of whom bring lucrative backing, as its two race drivers in November last year.

After a series of hearings that involved the SC supporting the Swiss tribunal’s ruling and throwing out Sauber’s subsequent appeal, the team’s participation in tomorrow’s race seems to rest on whether it will be found in contempt of the Victoria SC’s order to not hamper Van der Garde’s efforts to return to the cockpit in any way.

Van der Garde’s representatives have filed a motion requesting the court to seize the team’s assets and have gone as far as requesting a prison term or a hefty fine for Kaltenborn should the team be found in contempt.

Bailiffs reportedly turned up at the circuit yesterday prepared to seize the team’s assets, which including its two cars, and Sauber missed the opening practice session. They did however run in the second session with Ericsson and Nasr notching up a total of 47 laps.

The case, which has now been deferred to today morning, could well hinge on how far Sauber have gone in helping Van der Garde obtain the mandatory superlicence which expires every year and without which the Dutchman cannot race.

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