Giedo van der Garde has successfully won his appeal to race for Sauber in 2015, leaving the team with three drivers just days before the opening race of the season. But what has the case done for van der Garde’s long term racing career and the team’s prospects for the year ahead?
Three’s a crowd
Following a wholly positive off-season, in which the team showed that it has created a well-designed car that has inherent speed during testing, Sauber now finds itself in the unusual position of having three race drivers on its roster.
In the build up to the opening round in Melbourne, van der Garde submitted a claim that he had valid right to a race seat for 2015, as was his right, and duly won the case. However, the story has once again dragged Formula 1’s public image through the mud and I am surprised that the situation was not sorted out sooner or behind closed doors.
Any good PR knows that the first rule of crisis communications is to keep the story out of the press for as long as possible, and to fully understand your position when the news does break.
Sauber should have addressed the situation sooner before it damaged both its and the sport’s reputation. At best having three drivers for two cars is embarrassing and at worst it is likely to have further legal complications, particularly around the sponsorship brought to the cars by its drivers.
Van der Garde was completely within his right to pursue his case, as demonstrated by the judge’s decision. However, I wonder what this situation, particularly the very public nature of the case, has done for his own reputation and future racing prospects.
Are teams likely to hire a driver who is known to be litigious? At a time when teams are increasingly operating on restricted budgets regardless of the category, they are less likely to take a risk on a driver that could sue in future.
By pursuing the case, van der Garde has made a clear statement about his own personal brand, which has been reinforced by the legal win. But to protect this for the future, he will now have to work twice as hard to demonstrate that he is worth future investment – both in and out of the car.
I hope Geido does his talking on the track this year, a season of good results will certainly do wonders to erase this messy start to the year for all involved. As ever, the racing we all know and love is best enjoyed on the track, so now this has all been settled, here’s hoping for a great season for racing ahead.