Giedo van der Garde vs. Sauber (continued)

I have been reading lots of odd and illogical comments about this legal action in the last couple of days. Some more thoughts:

1. For as long as motor racing teams have existed, teams have been screwing drivers, and drivers have been screwing teams. The sport is full of tales of drivers and sponsors whose promised cheques either never arrived, or bounced higher than the local television tower when they did arrive. Often this occurred after the team had already incurred the expense of running a driver, branding etc. etc. for months. Some teams have gone out of business as a result. Equally, teams have taken sponsorship money from sponsors and/or drivers, then failed to honour their side of the bargain. It is up to both parties in deals like this to protect their own interests.

2. Sauber, by all acounts, is precariously financed, and probably needed a lot more money than they had on hand in October 2014 to get through the Winter and design and build their 2015 car. However, a funding crisis isn’t going to fly in court as a defence against a breach of contract lawsuit. The court will look at the facts before them, and are unlikely to be swayed by claims that the team will go out of business if the court finds against it. The attitude will be “well, you shouldn’t have broken contracts. Your problem”.

3. The court action in Australia is not the end game. As I understand it, Giedo van der Garde and his legal team are simply asking the court to rule that the arbitration decision in his favour in Switzerland is enforceable in Australia. If the court rules that it is, then we move to the next stage, where his lawyers will attempt to negotiate a settlement from Sauber. Implicit in the negoitations will be the threat that if Sauber does not comply, they will go to a local court to either force the team to put him in the car at Melbourne, or to demand some other commercial or financial sanction, which could (in extremis) include seizing team assets. If the court rules that the arbitration decision is not enforceable in Australia, this is not necessarily the end of the matter. Giedo van der Garde can still take legal action in Switzerland, which is where Sauber is based, or he can ask another country to rule that the judgment is enforceable in that country. We could be seeing the beginnings of a lengthy game of legal Whack-A-Mole, unless van der Garde does have another F1 option (which can only be Manor/Marussia).

If F1 is at all concerned about its public image, it should be working behind the scenes to broker a resolution to this dispute. The sight of bailiffs marching into the paddock to lock up the Sauber garages at a Grand Prix weekend will not play well in the media worldwide, should that happen.



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