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F1: Sauber driver stoush set for a late finish

By Barry Park, 12 Mar 2015 Motorsport

F1: Sauber driver stoush set for a late finish

Courtroom bunfight over van der Garde’s seat in the Australian Grand Prix nears its messy conclusion

LAUGHTER isn’t something that rings often around the chambers of the Victorian Supreme Court, but today seems to be something of an exception.

Prompting it, by all accounts, is an attempt by Dutch pilot Giedo van der Garde to regain his seat at the Sauber Motorsport team ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, which officially kicks off later today with the naming of the drivers who will contest the 2015 season opener.

Providing it are Justices Whelan, Beach and Ferguson, who have listened as the legal team representing Sauber attempts to extract the team from the tricky problem of having to fill two race car seats with three arses.

Wheels is not present in court, so we’re relying on a Twitter feed from respected Formula One scribe Adam Cooper, whose rolling account of the proceedings from the courtroom reads more like a TV sitcom than an appeal against a ruling handed down late last year that basically says if it’s written in a contract, then there’s no backing out from it.

Cooper’s account of the court’s hearing describes a bench that seemed to have more knowledge of the workings of F1 than the team of lawyers representing Sauber and its nominated drivers, Swede Marcus Ericsson and surprise recruit Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr.

At one point of the proceedings, Cooper says a lawyer representing Ericsson and Nasr told the court that his drivers “could face legal proceedings if they drive and deprive [van der Garde] of his seat”.

“Judges laugh at suggestion,” Cooper wrote, saying that one judge offered that this would only happen “at the far outer reaches of the galaxy”.

At 4.30pm today – the exact moment that teams need to notify the F1 hierarchy of the highly paid, or high-paying, derrieres to fill the drivers’ seats – the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal will say whether or not Sauber’s bid to kick van der Garde out of a seat has been successful.

The judges had flagged earlier that it could delay its decision until 9.30am tomorrow, which would not have suited either Sauber or van der Garde.

If things go van der Garde’s way, it means Sauber has three legitimately signed-up drivers on its books, and will likely need to start talking to van der Garde and the team’s other drivers about paying one out – a problem that could bring the team’s finances unstuck, Sauber has warned.

We await the verdict on the verdict.