Sauber set­tle con­tract row with van der Garde

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

For­mer Sauber driver thought to have been paid €16m by trou­bled team’s back­ers to drop his case

The fu­ture of Sauber re­mains in some doubt de­spite the team re­solv­ing a dis­pute with for­mer re­serve driver Giedo van der Garde, which had ared up at the sea­son-open­ing Aus­tralian Grand Prix.

The Dutch­man took the team to court in Australia, on the grounds that he had a valid con­tract to race for them in 2015. Van der Garde won his case, but even­tu­ally agreed to re­lin­quish his claim to a race seat. The two par­ties have sub­se­quently reached a set­tle­ment.

It is be­lieved that the sit­u­a­tion was be­ing ma­nip­u­lated by for­mer Mid­land, Spyker, HRT and Cater­ham boss Colin Kolles, who has been try­ing to take over Sauber for more than a year.

Sources close to van der Garde say that to end the dis­pute, he was paid just un­der 16m, which is more or less ex­actly the same amount that Mar­cus Eric­s­son paid for his race seat at Sauber this sea­son. In­sid­ers have claimed that van der Garde’s pay-off came from Eric­s­son’s back­ers – the fam­ily be­hind the Te­tra Pak drinks pack­ag­ing com­pany – who, in re­turn, have taken a con­trol­ling in­ter­est in the team.

This does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that Kolles has gone away. Kolles is a favourite of F1 boss Bernie Ec­cle­stone, who may well try to push him to­wards the Swedes as a suit­able man to help run Sauber.

At one point, Sauber ac­tu­ally had ve driv­ers un­der con­tract for 2015 – Van der Garde, cur­rent race driv­ers Eric­s­son and Felipe Nasr, and last year’s race driv­ers Adrian Su­til and Este­ban Gu­tiér­rez.

The rea­son for this was sim­ple. The Sauber team have been in dire nan­cial straits for some time now, and team boss Mon­isha Kal­tenborn made the de­ci­sions she needed to at the time, painful though they were, just to keep the team in busi­ness.

The sit­u­a­tion likely came to a head in Mel­bourne be­cause van der Garde wanted to achieve max­i­mum em­bar­rass­ment, and there­fore po­ten­tially max­i­mum re­ward.

Sauber’s pre­car­i­ous nan­cial sit­u­a­tion is one of the main rea­sons why Re­nault, cast­ing around for a team to take over and run as their own fac­tory outt, have re­jected them.

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