Giedo van der Garde says he is ready to race in the Australian GP
Dutchman claimed team reneged on deal for 2015 race seat; Sauber argued putting Van der Garde in car would be 'dangerous'; "I still have a very good relationship with the team," Dutchman insists
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 16/03/15 2:15pm
Giedo van der Garde has insisted he is ready to race at this weekend's season-opening Australian GP after a court ruled that he is entitled to drive for Sauber this season.
Sauber, for whom Van der Garde served as a test driver last year, are appealing against the verdict with a judgement expected on Thursday - just 24 hours before the first official session of the new 2015 season.
The Swiss team told the court that it would be unsafe for Van der Garde to drive this weekend after sitting out the whole of winter testing and the Dutchman’s participation would represent a risk to the rest of the field. But Van der Garde, speaking in the wake of a ruling which the court specified "applies to the whole of the 2015 Formula 1 season", has insisted he is ready to race.
"I'm very happy with the outcome. I'm fit and very strong and I’m looking forward to going back to the team and doing the best we can," said Van der Garde. "I'm as fit as ever, I've been training for the last three months flat out."
Nevertheless, the thought of Van der Garde strolling back into the Sauber garage after taking the team to court and easing himself into the cockpit of one of the team’s C34 cars is a remarkable and rather surreal prospect. Flies on the wall can rarely have fuelled such envy. Van der Garde, though, insists that his return is viable.
"I had a very good relationship with the team and I still have a very good relationship with the team. I'm looking forward to racing this weekend. I'm happy we won the case and now I’m looking forward to getting back to business," he said.
It remains unclear if, in the event of their appeal against the court's decision being unsuccessful, Sauber would drop Marcus Ericsson or Felipe Nasr in order to accommodate Van der Garde. Both drivers are believed to have paid, via their sponsors, in the region of £10m for their seats this year. The complex problems of the cash-strapped Sauber teams may thus be only just beginning.
"They can’t afford to run him, it’s as simple as that," observed Sky F1's Ted Kravitz. "Van der Garde brings money to the team, or at least his sponsors do, but it’s not as much as money as Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson."
Even so, former Sauber driver Felipe Massa suggested the cash-strapped team had done the wrong thing in hiring fellow Brazilian Nasr and Sweden's Ericsson.
“It’s very sad to see that this thing is happening just a few days before the first race," Massa, now at Williams, said. “I’m not happy – maybe more for what the team is doing, to sign three drivers for the championship. One had a contract and then they sign another two…I feel really sad.
“It’s strange. It’s not nice for the sport.
“I hope they manage to correct the situation but who is going to drive, I have no idea.”
The court was told on Tuesday that Ericsson and Nasr, who were both present, have brought "many millions of euros" to Sauber and that they will launch an action of their own if Van der Garde wins.
Van der Garde’s contract with Sauber for the 2015 season is reported to have been signed midway through last year’s campaign with the team believed to have been planning to pair him with Jules Bianchi prior to the Frenchman’s horror crash at Suzuka in October.