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).
— Supreme Court of Vic (@SCVSupremeCourt) March 13, 2015
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.