MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn stood behind her team’s decision-making Friday in an ongoing dispute with former driver Giedo van der Garde and said at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix that she had not considered resigning from her position over the legal battle.
The controversy reached almost farcical levels on Friday with the team having three drivers — van der Garde, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr — in their race suits in the garage but unable to take part in the opening practice run as the dispute was being argued in the Supreme Court of the state of Victoria, just a short distance from the Albert Park circuit.
Van der Garde, who was a reserve driver with Sauber last season, maintains he was given a contract as a race driver for 2015, but the team later changed course by signing Nasr and Ericsson, who brought the team much-needed financial backing from their sponsors.
While the matter was not resolved on Friday, meaning lawyers for both sides will be back in court on Saturday morning, enough progress had been made to enable Ericsson and Nasr to participate in the second practice session in the afternoon.
Kaltenborn succeeded team founder Peter Sauber as team principal at the start of 2013, becoming the sport’s first female team boss. Since taking over, she has been forced to deal with the legal chaos that has enveloped the team and a dire 2014 season when the team failed to score a single point and battled major financial problems.
While she refused to directly address the van der Garde matter on Friday, she said the team’s decision-making process was sound.
When asked whether she had thought about resigning over the current legal problems, she said, “I have not considered that.”
“We have a very clear view of what we did. We thought about it very well. The outcome is different, and that is all I can say about that.”
Van der Garde’s position was upheld by a Swiss tribunal, but that did not change the team’s decision to use Ericsson and Nasr in the season-opening race, so he took legal action in the local court in Australia to force the issue.
The Supreme Court ruled in his favor at the start of this week, and Sauber’s appeal was rejected on Thursday.
That meant van der Garde was at the circuit on Friday for a seat fitting in the car, having not been involved in any of the team’s preseason testing. Simultaneously, his lawyers were back at court pursuing a contempt of court action against Sauber, arguing the team had not fully complied with earlier orders and not facilitated van der Garde’s application for the “super license” needed to compete in F1.
The court urged the two parties to strike an agreement and another hearing was scheduled for Saturday, just hours before the start of qualifying for Sunday’s race.
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