A Dutch court has forced former F1 driver Robert Doornbos into bankruptcy, after a Rotterdam court ruled against him in a long-running dispute with a former sponsor who helped back his pathway into Formula 1.
Doornbos enjoyed a rapid rise through the junior ranks after taking up four-wheeled competition in his early twenties. He made his F1 debut as a test driver for Jordan before making his maiden Grand Prix start with Minardi in mid-2005.
He switched to Red Bull Racing the following year in its test line-up, and was promoted to the grid in the latter stages of the 2006 season when the team parted ways with Christian Klien.
In 2007, he reunited with Minardi boss Paul Stoddart to head the Australian’s new foray into the Champ Car World Series with the Minardi Tea USA. He won two races in his debut season and claimed ‘Rookie of the Year’ honours.
He stayed on in the North American racing scene in 2008 – switching to the IndyCar Series when the CCWS collapsed – but left mid-2009.
We reported in May that Doornbos had been sued for a mammoth €11 million by businessman Harry Muermans, whose brokerage company was shown as one of the 30-year-old’s major backers between 2005-8.
Muermans sued – ultimately downgrading his suit to €1 million – for lost earnings he claims he’s entitled to when Doornbos allegedly breached the terms of the commercial agreement brokered by the pair. Muermans claimed the payments to Doornbos were loans, while Doornbos argued that the payments (made to a holding company run by his sister) were actually sponsorship.
A furious Doornbos has lashed out at the decision after the final ruling.
“All of this happening now is completely unnecessary,” he told De Telegraaf. “It is not based on facts. As you know, I am no longer active in racing through the actions of Muermans. He largely made my career by helping me with my sponsorship, especially in F1. He is now trying to destroy it because he is in financial trouble himself.”