Giedo van der Garde and the Sauber F1 Team have agreed to a financial settlement that brings to an end the ugly contract drama that tainted the build-up to last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
While the terms of the settlement remain, our sources tell us that van der Garde has been paid in the region of €15 million in damages to end any further claims he had to a valid contract for the 2015 Formula 1 season.
The two sides have been embroiled in a protracted legal dispute which has had hearings in Switzerland and Australia, with each hearing siding with the Dutch driver.
Sauber was threatened with the impounding of its equipment and potential criminal prosecution of its team management if it failed to comply with the order to award van der Garde a drive, but the two parties agreed to a provisional settlement at the eleventh hour which ensured he would not drive and the team would keep its entered line-up of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson. The pair went on to finish the Australian Grand Prix in fifth and eighth places respectively, giving the financially struggling outfit its first points’ finish in over a year.
Following Sunday’s race, all sides have agreed to a binding settlement that finally ends the drama. Van der Garde was first to announce, posting a lengthy statement on his Facebook page:
“We have reached a settlement with Sauber and my driver contract with the team has been ended by mutual consent. As a passionate race driver, I feel sad and am very disappointed. I have worked very hard my entire career, ever since starting with go-karts at the age of eight, to live my dream and become a successful Formula One driver. I had hoped at last to be able to show what I am capable of, driving a car for a respected midfield team in the 2015 season. This dream has been taken away from me and I know that my future in Formula One is probably over.
I had a valid driver contract for the entire 2015 season and enforceable rights to it. I pushed very hard until last Saturday in Melbourne to get the drive that I was entitled to. This legal process started in 2014 and has taken a great deal of effort. It was never a last minute thing, but it only became public in the last week when we tried to force the team to accept the rulings of a succession of legal authorities and courts.
I am a race driver and all I want is to race. However, the team principal was adamant not to let me drive, notwithstanding my legal rights to do so and a series of rulings and court orders in my favour and despite my race driving abilities. I will never understand this. I could have persisted, but the team principal had taken a decision contrary to my contract that she would not work with me and this became painfully clear in the paddock in Melbourne. To push on against this determination might have brought down the team, it would most certainly have wrecked the opening Grand Prix in Melbourne because the team’s cars would have been seized by the court, it may have ruined the careers of two young drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. Possibly the team’s directors would even be taken into custody. I decided I did not want to live with that idea, even though it was only the team’s management that was responsible for the bizarre situation I found myself in.
I am very grateful to my fans and many friends in Formula One who have given me a lot of support during the last couple of months. This period has been very difficult for me especially since I could not talk to anybody about the pending proceedings. Last week, many drivers on the grid gave me their support and several of them did so openly in the media as well. The same goes for several leading figures in the paddock who include team bosses and reputable former Formula One drivers. I thank them as well.
My future in motorsport has not finished: on the contrary, I see this as a new beginning. I will sit down with my management in the coming weeks to discuss my future plans. I would love to take part in the WEC and the Le Mans 24 Hours in an LMP1 car. Former Formula One drivers do very well in this series. We also have our eye on other series such as the DTM in 2016 and beyond.
There has been a lot of speculation in the media over the past week, so I want to set out clearly that my sponsors paid the sponsorship fee related to the 2015 season in its entirety to Sauber in the first half of 2014. This was simply in good faith and to help the team deal with its cash problems at the time. Effectively, it was my sponsor’s advanced payments that helped the team survive in 2014.
Sauber’s financial decision-making in this case is bizarre and makes no sense to me. I am not at liberty to discuss details, but Sauber paid significant compensation to avoid honouring the contract they had with me. Only in that respect can I be satisfied that my rights have finally been recognised and that at least some justice has been done.
I want to thank McGregor for sponsoring me from the time I won the Formula Renault 3.5 Ltr. Series in 2008. I hope we can continue to build on this as my motorsport career goes forward in other series.
I want to thank my family, my father Gerrit and my wife Denise in particular, for their tireless support throughout the years that I have been chasing my Formula One dream. The last couple of months have been especially hard for me but they have always stood by me. Of course, I also want to thank my father-in-law, Marcel Boekhoorn, who has been a great supporter during my entire career through the motorsport ranks. Without him, I would not have got this far.
I also thank Jeroen Schothorst and Jan Paul ten Hoopen for managing my career and business affairs since 2008 and in particular for their unconditional support during these last four and a half months. I also extend thanks to my legal advisor Gijs Rooijens and the law firms, Druces, Blackstone Chambers and King & Wood Mallesons (Australia), that worked very hard and enthusiastically – sometimes literally day and night and during weekends – to fight for my rights.”
Van der Garde ended his statement with a parting shot at the Swiss team, and urged his fellow drivers – those in F1 and seeking to make it to F1 – to push to have their rights recognised:
“Finally, I would like to direct a few words to the teams, drivers, future drivers, their managers and the Formula One governing bodies. I sincerely hope that what has happened to me will start a movement aimed at setting new standards and bringing about new regulations to help protect the rights of drivers.
“I would like to think that the values and business ethics that apply in any other business should be equally applicable in Formula One. I am lucky to have had Marcel and Jeroen on my side. Both of them have extensive backgrounds in business and bring a lot of expertise to the table when it comes to resolving complicated business affairs. Without them, I would have remained empty-handed in the wake of this extraordinary affair.
“There are numerous examples of talented drivers with good intentions but without the sort of professional support that I have had, who have been broken by Formula One and who have seen their careers destroyed. I therefore hope that my unprecedented case which was heard last week by the Supreme Court of Victoria at Melbourne will serve as an example to illustrate what should change, and that new regulations will be implemented to help protect driver rights.”
With the spotlight once again back on the team, Sauber subsequently issued its own statement denouncing a number of van der Garde’s claims, while also seeking to draw a line under the entire mess.
“Many of you read today’s statement on Giedo van der Garde’s Facebook page. So have we and we were, indeed, rather surprised. We don’t know about Giedo’s intentions. He may try to present himself as a winner, while we had actually hoped to come to rest after our agreement. Giedo decided to take a different approach – the reasoning behind we cannot understand.
We’d have very good answers to the many statements and accusations in Giedo’s post. But to expand on this wouldn’t help our race team nor our fans and partners. It would only encourage a mud fight via the media and we will not lend ourselves to that.
The next race in Malaysia is where our focus is and that’s where we will build up on last weekend’s success together with our drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. All our efforts are drawn to this objective.
With this in mind we’d like to encourage you to form your own opinion about what happened, however critical it may be. From our side we herewith close the matter and look already forward to celebrating future achievements at the race track together with you.
As ever, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.