Sauber and Van der Garde end bitter dispute
Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde admits his "future in Formula One is probably over" after reaching a settlement with Sauber to resolve their bitter legal dispute.
Van der Garde took Sauber to courts in Switzerland and Australia over his belief he had a contract to race for the team in 2015. In the days before the Australian Grand Prix the Supreme Court of Victoria found that Van der Garde was entitled to race at the season-opening race in Melbourne, but both parties came to an agreement ahead of Sunday's event to allow Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson to compete for Sauber.
On Wednesday Van der Garde confirmed via his Facebook page the matter has been resolved and his 2015 contract ended by mutual consent. The Dutch driver, who drove for Caterham in 2013, says he felt well within his rights to take the team to court to pursue the career he always dreamed of.
"As a passionate race driver, I feel sad and am very disappointed," Van der Garde's statement said. "I have worked very hard my entire career, ever since starting with go-karts at the age of eight, to live my dream and become a successful Formula One driver. I had hoped at last to be able to show what I am capable of, driving a car for a respected midfield team in the 2015 season. This dream has been taken away from me and I know that my future in Formula One is probably over."
Remarkably, Van der Garde says Sauber has his own sponsors to thank for its continued existence in the sport.
"There has been a lot of speculation in the media over the past week, so I want to set out clearly that my sponsors paid the sponsorship fee related to the 2015 season in its entirety to Sauber in the first half of 2014. This was simply in good faith and to help the team deal with its cash problems at the time. Effectively, it was my sponsor's advanced payments that helped the team survive in 2014.
"Sauber's financial decision-making in this case is bizarre and makes no sense to me. I am not at liberty to discuss details, but Sauber paid significant compensation to avoid honouring the contract they had with me. Only in that respect can I be satisfied that my rights have finally been recognised and that at least some justice has been done."
Van der Garde says he came to an agreement not to drive at the Australian Grand Prix because he feared the ramifications for Sauber, though he did take a swipe at team principal Monisha Kaltenborn.
"I am a race driver and all I want is to race. However, the team principal was adamant not to let me drive, notwithstanding my legal rights to do so and a series of rulings and court orders in my favour and despite my race driving abilities. I will never understand this. I could have persisted, but the team principal had taken a decision contrary to my contract that she would not work with me and this became painfully clear in the paddock in Melbourne.
"To push on against this determination might have brought down the team, it would most certainly have wrecked the opening Grand Prix in Melbourne because the team´s cars would have been seized by the court, it may have ruined the careers of two young drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. Possibly the team´s directors would even be taken into custody. I decided I did not want to live with that idea, even though it was only the team's management that was responsible for the bizarre situation I found myself in."
The Dutchman says he now has his eye on competing in the World Endurance Championship and the illustrious Le Mans 24 Hours.