Sauber driver seeks court approval to race in Melbourne



It would be reckless and dangerous to allow Dutch Formula One driver Giedo van der Garde to race in the Melbourne Grand Prix this weekend, lawyers for Sauber Motorsport have told the Victorian Supreme Court.

Van der Garde is fighting for the right to drive one of the team’s vehicles in the first Grand Prix of the season on Sunday.

The driver was in the Sauber line-up, but found out late last year he had been overlooked in favour of Filipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, who were reportedly viewed as being able to bring more money to the team.

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A Swiss arbitration court already ruled Sauber could not deny van der Garde the right to drive for the team and he is now seeking to have the Victorian Supreme Court enforce the ruling in this jurisdiction.

Rodney Garratt QC, acting for Sauber Motorsports, told the court the team’s vehicles had been upgraded for the 2015 racing season, from Ferrari C33s to Ferrari C34s, and were custom-designed to fit the bodies of Nasr and Ericsson.

Mr Garratt said the cars were capable of reaching speeds “in excess of 300 kilometres per hour”, exposing drivers to forces of “up to five times their bodyweight”.


Giedo van der Garde in action for Sauber last season. Photo: Getty

As such it would be “reckless and dangerous” to allow van der Garde, who had different height and weight dimensions to the other two drivers, to race in one of the cars.

The court heard each driver had a different head position and the fine tuning of each vehicle was so exhaustive it would take at least two weeks to custom-fit a new one.

Further, Mr Garratt said, van der Garde had no experience driving the C34s and he was not covered by Sauber’s insurance.

He said even if van der Garde were successful, the absence of necessary parts, including the right seat-belt, would prohibit him from racing safely at such short notice.

“Sauber could not allow him to race… it would be reckless and dangerous to do otherwise,” Mr Garratt told the court.

“It would result in an unacceptable risk of physical harm or even death.”

The court heard there were numerous public safety issues at play, including the safety of spectators at the event.

Court challenge a surprise: lawyer for Nasr, Ericsson

Van der Garde has raced in 19 GPs, without a pole position start or podium finish.

He was in court for the hearing, as were Nasr and Ericsson, who arrived from Europe last night in preparation for the race.

The lawyer for the two team drivers, Will Houghton QC, told the court van der Garde’s latest challenge had come as a complete surprise and they knew nothing of it before getting to Melbourne.

Cameras were allowed in the courtroom to film the hearing.

The Formula 1 race cars will hit the track on Thursday ahead of the GP on Sunday afternoon.

Hundreds of tonnes of high-tech racing equipment, including vehicles, have already been delivered to the Albert Park racetrack.

Justice Croft is continuing to hear the case on Monday afternoon and is yet to say when he will rule on the matter.


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