Date: 13th March 2015 at 12:31pm
Written by:

The legal battle between Formula One team Sauber and race driver Giedo van der Garde continued in Melbourne.

Up until now the headlines had been written in court rooms and press releases but on Friday it was played out at Albert Park in front of the worlds media as Formula One returned for the start of the 2015 Formula One World Championship.

The argument boils down to an agreement between Sauber and 29-year-old Giedo van der Garde that the Dutchman would have a race seat within the team for 2015, after serving the team as reserve driver driver in 2014 participating in seven free practice sessions over the course of the season.

According to some rumours flying around the paddock in Australia, Giedo van der Garde allegedly paid Sauber around £8million in June 2014 for the agreement. Money which Sauber would have then spent to get them through a troublesome financial period and finish the remainder of last season.

But despite this contract being in place with Giedo van der Garde, Sauber opted for a new driver line-up at the end of 2014 in the form of former Caterham driver Marcus Ericsson and GP2 racer Felipe Nasr, both bringing with them important sponsorship revenue for the team.

Giedo van der Garde took his case to a Swiss arbitration tribunal which ordered Sauber to keep him at the team and on Tuesday the Victoria court in Australia also enforced this ruling.

Sauber appealed the decision which was later dismissed as the appeals panel insisted that there was ‘no error in the reasoning of the trial judge and they also ordered Sauber to pay van der Garde’s legal fees.

It wasn’t clear what Sauber would do especially as Van der Garde’s super-licence had expired, which wouldn’t allow him to compete in Friday’s practice sessions.

Van der Garde insisted that he would get his super-licence fast-tracked via the Dutch motorsport authority and the FIA, however this did not happen in time for Friday’s practice sessions although the reason isn’t clear why and speculation has suggested that Sauber may have had a part to play in the paper work not being completed.

Despite this Van der Garde arrived at the Melbourne circuit and although he was not in possession of a Sauber pass, he managed to gain entry to the Albert Park track.

He was even seen walking around the paddock in some borrowed Sauber overalls, although he has had to set up base within the FIA offices rather than with the Sauber team.

Throughout the first practice session it was Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr who sat in the cars, although neither ventured out on track.

Back in the paddock and through the session a media scrum followed Sauber’s team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, who ironically used to be head of Sauber’s legal department as she holds a Law degree from the University of Vienna.

It has now emerged she is now under the threat of ending the weekend in an Australian prison if she is found in contempt of court.

The Sauber F1 team is also under the shadow of potentially seeing their assets including the cars and all the equipment seized by the authorities.

Kaltenborn refused to discuss the issue with the media as the day progressed and it isn’t clear if there has been any movement.

On the track both Ericsson and Nasr finally got some track time during free practice two, but the focus firmly remains on the situation regarding how Sauber can move forward with three contracted drivers.

It’s clear that both Sauber and Van der Garde’s representatives have to come to some form of agreement and Van der Garde’s lawyer has said that constructive discussions ‘are expected to continue this evening’.

Will that see Van der Garde starting the Australian Grand Prix? It looks unlikely and the messy saga will rumble on after the F1 circus vacates Australia.