What’s happened to Sauber?

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I have always had a lot of time for Peter Sauber. The man has been in Formula 1 since the early 90’s and I have resonated with his spirit and approach to racing. He was an incubator for terrific driver talent and has worked with some of the sport’s biggest names but it turns out that the biggest name in his career may just be Giedo van der Garde.

Taking an advance payment on prize money to help fund the team in order to get to Australia this weekend could be all for nothing as van der Garde has just won a court decision and an appeal by Sauber to claim his rightful seat at the team. The legal woes may not end there as van der Garde’s lawyers also secured a Contempt of Court order to ensure the team complies with the decision of Justice Clyde Croft. This means that the team could have its assets seized if they do not make the right moves to get Giedo in a seat on Friday.

What has happened to Sauber? This is the little team that could and Peter himself saved the Swiss outfit from antiquity when BMW left the sport. I’m not clear on how involved Peter was in driver contract negotiations and I cannot recall reading stories over the past decades about him screwing drivers or reneging on contracts. This seems to be uncharted waters for the character of Peter Sauber.

Some suggest the court decision could signal the end of Sauber financially and that they could simply not race this weekend. Time will tell on what he fallout will be but I’m starting to wonder about Monisha Kaltenborn, if I’m honest.

Monisha is an attorney and she, more than anyone, should know better than to breach a contract so blatantly that arbitration and two courts would find the team’s action clearly in the wrong. What was she thinking?

Sauber tried to make an argument that it was unsafe to put Giedo in their car but that’s the whole role of a reserve driver! Again, what was she thinking? That didn’t seem to bother them when Pedro de la Rosa subbed for Sergio Perez in Canada in 2011. It’s like someone replaced Sauber with Folger’s Crystals or something. Who are these people anyway? This isn’t the Sauber I’ve known since 1992.

Insiders may have a much better feel for how Sauber operates. Maybe they are dodgy and maybe the financial crunch compelled them to make bad decision at the end of last year but from my vantage point, I don’t recall the team or Peter Sauber being quite this unhinged. There’s really only one thing that can explain bad decisions like this in my mind…money…or the lack of in this case.

Not allowing van der Garde to race will put them in contempt of court but surely sitting Felipe Nasr or Marcus Ericsson down will also find them in legal hot water. I think it is time to make serious changes at Sauber and perhaps a Ferrari-like shakeup is in order?

Side note

As a side note, I have to consider the idea that with a majority of the drivers all paying for the privilege to drive in F1 these days, the contracts they have could have more teeth than the past. They would have to because sponsors that back the drivers with big cash need security for their investment. Some of Giedo’s backers may have been with him a long time and perhaps the knock-on effect of F1 teams playing the drivers-as-revenue game will take notice. It was, perhaps, inevitable that this would eventually happen given the pervasive nature of pay drivers.

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