Looking at the situation at Sauber right now, one wonders whether the motivation behind all this courtroom activity is simply Dutch stubbornness and an understandable sense of having been wronged, or whether there are bigger picture things going on. Things are not always as they seem in F1, so one must ask why this mess is happening when there is little or no chance of any serious compensation.
How can a court assess image damage to a pay-driver? A judge would say: what was Mr Van der Garde’s reputation and prospects before the incident? Amiable pay-driver, no real prospects of a Ferrari drive or World Championship potential. The Dutch side’s lawyer would no doubt argue that Giedo is the next Fernando Alonso… Sauber lawyers on the other hand might point out some character flaws (this is nasty stuff going on) and claim, for example, that GvdG may have denied having a contract right through last summer, so he might be willing to say what was required rather than the truth.
The judge might then ask what Giedo’s reputation is after the incident: and the reply would come back, not quite so amiable pay-driver.
So a judge might conclude that the only thing that GvdG has lost is the reputation for being amiable. If there were clauses in the contract that involved money changing hands then Sauber would be required to pay those back, but I wonder whether punitive damages could be applied? I doubt it.
And is the image damage worth a financial settlement? How do you quantify amiability in dollars? You cannot. In any case, one cannot blame wholly Sauber for this, because the responsibility is shared by all involved in this legal jamboree…
So we must perhaps consider that there is more to this than meets the eye. There often is in F1 stories. Could this, for example, be an attempt to bring the Swiss team to its knees as part of some kind of hostile takeover bid? Giedo’s father in law has been quietly sniffing around F1 for a while now, looking at ways to get into team ownership (so they say) and making a big mess in public might help such a scheme. Alas, a family-owned team is probably now the only way Giedo could get a drive in F1, so that might be one possible strategy. The Dutch F1 landscape is about to undergo a Verstappen Moment and so Giedo & Co must act quickly before they are swept away by a flood of Max Verstappen’s stories.
Sauber is a nice asset but has serious cash problems because of the mess F1 is in. F1 cannot go on destroying itself for much longer and so a smart investor might say that now is the good time to acquire a team because once a new structure comes along, teams will again have a value. Look at Williams. The US investor Brad Hollinger is buying in there because he sees F1 being close to a new growth spurt. Changes are required but in a couple of years the landscape may be very different to today.
Sauber has always been one of the most honorable and honest teams and I fervently believe that the current mess was caused only by desperation ( just as Lotus’s Carmen Jorda moment can hardly be put down to anything else) and the desire to keep the team alive and the people employed. That does not excuse it, but it helps to explain it.
Other more creative brains might argue that in recent years clever young team bosses have been disappearing on a regular basis, Adam Parr and Marco Mattiacci spring to mind. Perhaps the European Commission problems are seen by some as being the fault of Monisha and taking out the troublesome is a good tactic “pour encourager les autres”, as Voltaire might say.
Anyway, what we need right now is engine noise to drown out all of this crap. Gentlemen, start your engines!
If you can…