Legal mess hangs over Sauber

The legality of their new signings have been called into question on multiple fronts.

Things seem cut and dry at first glance. Sauber has hired GP2 competitor Felipe Nasr and Caterham's Marcus Ericsson to pilot their cars in 2015. There's just a bit of a snag in those plans and their names are Sutil, Gutierrrez, Sirotkin, and Van Der Garde.

Sutil has a contract

Both of the current Sauber drivers weren't even told of the Nasr announcement ahead of time. They read the release just as you and I did. Sutil's contract is clear and it goes through the 2015 season.

We've announced our drivers and that's how it's going to be.

Monisha Kaltenborn

Sauber desperately needs the money Nasr and Ericssons bring, which could explain why they were so trigger-happy in going ahead with this. A baffled Sutil is staying fairly vague with his comments, which is understandable with a legal battle likely on the horizon.

Van Der Garde ... A potential thorn in Sauber's side

There are also reports suggesting that Giedo van der Garde had a race contract with Sauber for 2015. Van Der Garde's backers have won legal battles in the past and could really be a thorn in Sauber's side as this saga unfolds.

Kalenborn is a legal expert

Team principal Monisha Kaltenborn must know what she is doing; she has a masters degree in international business law. It's hard to believe that she would back the team into a corner like this unless there was a clause in the contracts protecting her.

Theories as to what may protect Sauber

Perhaps there is a performance clause that has no bearing on the car's performance. Considering it could be the end of Sauber without the money, there may be an escape of sorts written into the contracts that would allow them to do this. Maybe they will just have to empty their wallets in order to get rid of Sutil and that the backing from these new drivers is enough to compensate for that. I'm just throwing out theories here because no one seems to know at the moment.

Kaltenborn hit back at Sutil, who is adamant that they can not remove him from his seat, saying "We've announced our two drivers. I am not aware that next year more than two cars would be used. We've announced our drivers and that's how it's going to be. 

Gutierrez has no bullets in the gun

The only one of the four who really don't have any kind of leg to stand on is Gutierrez. As for Sergey Sirotkin, it's unknown what he and his Russian backers plan to do as two outsiders have leaped over him and into the Sauber seats. If things do get reversed though, still expect another legal battle, but it would instead be waged by Nasr and Ericsson's backers.

The CRB's role

So how does the Contract Recognition Board fit into all this? They could certainly play a role in this, should Sutil seek their interference. This kind of situation is precisely what they were designed for.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giedo van der Garde , Adrian Sutil , Esteban Gutierrez , Marcus Ericsson , Felipe Nasr , Sergey Sirotkin
Teams Sauber
Article type Analysis