Sauber settle contract row with van der Garde
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 outt, have rejected them.