The Sauber F1 Team and Giedo van der Garde are back in the courts once again as the contract situation between the team and driver shows no sign of abating.
An Australian judge will decide this afternoon whether the Swiss team is guilty of contempt of court, where it would be ruled that the team has not complied with the order to not do anything that would prevent Giedo van der Garde from racing at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
A contempt ruling could see some of the team’s equipment being seized by bailiffs and – extraordinarily – team principal Monisha Kaltenborn hit with a hefty fine, or even a prison sentence.
An initial hearing was held this morning, and a ruling is expected to be made this afternoon.
The Albert Park paddock has been witness to an extraordinary media frenzy outside the Sauber hospitality unit for much of the day.
Having won both his original claim to the Supreme Court of Victoria and a subsequent appeal attempt by the Sauber F1 Team, Giedo van der Garde arrived at the paddock this morning and found himself unable to get in when his paddock pass was not working.
He did eventually get into the paddock, and in a bit of a show for the cameras, donned Marcus Ericsson’s race suit and underwent a preliminary seat-fitting, seeming to suggest that Sauber was going to comply with the court’s ruling. Our sources told us that when van der Garde went into the Sauber garages, a number of the team’s mechanics stormed out in protest.
However, van der Garde is not currently in possession of an FIA Super License, and so could not participate in the opening practice session at 12:00pm and, in all likelihood, for the rest of the weekend.
Both of Sauber’s other drivers with seemingly legitimate contracts, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, donned overalls and helmets for FP1, but neither ventured out of the garage. Given the C34’s impressive pre-season reliability, it’s certain no mechanical issues were to blame – it is suspected that the team kept both cars garaged so as to avoid any perception it was thumbing its nose at the court ruling.
At the time of going to press at the start of FP2, both Saubers were first out of the gates while the final segment of the court claim gets underway.
Images via XPB Images