Legal row between Sauber and van der Garde rages on; next hearing set for Saturday as talks begin

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The legal dispute between Sauber F1 Team and its former reserve driver, Giedo van der Garde, continues to overshadow the start of the 2015 season with another court hearing set to be held on Saturday morning in Melbourne.

Van der Garde launched legal action against the team over the winter, citing unfair dismissal after holding a contract that said he would be racing for the team in F1 this year.

On Monday, the Victoria Supreme Court heard his case and eventually ruled on Wednesday that Sauber must race him at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

However, it emerged on Friday just before practice that van der Garde did not hold a valid FIA super licence as Sauber had failed to complete the necessary paperwork, prompting accusations of contempt.

Van der Garde’s legal team lobbied with the judge to have Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn imprisoned or fined, and for the seizure of the team’s assets in Melbourne, preventing it from racing this weekend.

The judge eventually adjourned the hearing, with the Supreme Court of Victoria confirming that it would resume at 9:30am local time on Saturday (1830 ET on Friday).

Sauber and van der Garde were urged to have “very sensible discussions”, and it is believed that the two parties are now in contact over a settlement.

However, before the judge’s decision, such an outcome seemed unlikely. Upon arriving in Melbourne on Friday, van der Garde found that his pass was not working, and was forced to use a guest pass to even get into paddock.

The Dutchman was then spotted in Marcus Ericsson’s overalls ahead of FP1, after having a seat fitting in Felipe Nasr’s car ahead of a possible run-out in Malaysia. Sauber did not run either of its drivers in FP1, but did send both Ericsson and Felipe Nasr out on track for FP2.

Facing the media after practice on Friday, Kaltenborn refused to speak about the situation, but did admit that the saga has had a very negative effect on Sauber.

“Well, that’s a topic I can’t say anything about,” Kaltenborn said. “Just to make it clear, any questions about that I will not be able to answer.

“It’s definitely a very negative impact on the team because the situation was for a while unclear, we now have certain actions taken against the team and we are acting accordingly so there’s nothing much more I can say to that.”

When asked by NBCSN whether she believed that her position as team principal had become untenable, Kaltenborn simply said: “I’ve not considered that.”

With the court case resuming on Saturday, time is of the essence for Sauber if it is to take part in this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. It must ensure that it addresses the issue of having three drivers contracted for two race seats, but if it fails to come to some kind of agreement with van der Garde, the possible seizure of its cars could end all of its racing activity in Melbourne.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”