Sauber are facing a major dilemma as former reserve driver Giedo van der Garde successfully won his case in an Australian court, who ruled the Dutchman must now drive for the Swiss team in 2015.
The ruling comes just four days before the opening Grand Prix of the new season in Melbourne but could have far-reaching implications for Sauber for the entire year.
As reported last week, Van der Garde believes he should be in the team for 2015 after a deal to move from his position of reserve driver was made last summer, however, with Sauber facing major financial problems, the team later went back on the agreement instead bringing in the well-backed pairing of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.
Article continues below
Van der Garde a life threatening risk
During the hearing in Victoria, Sauber had argued that putting Van der Garde into the car for the first race this weekend would present a dangerous and potentially life threatening risk but the Supreme Court Justice Clyde Croft rejected that claim in siding with the former Caterham driver.
Indeed with a full season at the now defunct Caterham outfit in 2013 and the test outings for Sauber last year under his belt, Van der Garde has more experience than either of the two drivers that the team brought in for this year.
Article continues below
Also, both McLaren and Manor will be running with drivers who have less experience than the Dutchman. Kevin Magnussen only has a full season and a single day of 2015 testing in the Honda-powered McLaren, while Will Stevens is the only driver with F1 race experience at Manor where he will be joined by rookie Roberto Merhi.
Sauber left in precarious position
While the decision was made in Australia ahead of the first Grand Prix, Judge Croft ruled Van der Garde has the right to a race seat at Sauber for the entirety of the 2015 season and that decision puts the financially-troubled Sauber team in a very precarious position.
After been ruled to have broken Van der Garde's 2015 contract, the team could now have to break what could be even more costly contracts with either Ericsson or Nasr to make way for Van der Garde during the season.
“We are disappointed with this decision and now need to take time to understand what it means and the impact it will have on the start of our season"
Based on the perceived size of the backing both drivers are bringing in to Sauber, it would seem more likely that Ericsson would be the driver that would make way for the Dutchman given Nasr's prime sponsor Banco do Brasil are the most evident in the new blue and yellow livery this year's Sauber is running.
Any decision, for now, is pending an appeal Sauber have issued against the verdict reached on Wednesday morning and that hearing began in the afternoon local time Down Under before being deferred until Thursday.
Kaltenborn standing by her argument
Reacting to the verdict, Sauber said that they were "disappointed" by the decision but continued to stand their ground saying they would not simply let Van der Garde race believing he still represents a safety risk.
“We are disappointed with this decision and now need to take time to understand what it means and the impact it will have on the start of our season," team boss Monisha Kaltenborn said in a statement.
“What we cannot do is jeopardise the safety of our team, or any other driver on the track, by having an unprepared driver in a car that has now been tailored to two other assigned drivers.”
Three drivers, only two cars
The question for Sauber now could be what next? The fallout from either of their current 2015 drivers missing a race could have major implications but there is also the possibility that former race driver Adrian Sutil could go down a similar route after he too claimed he had a contract for 2015 before being ousted at the end of last year.
Its another messy saga for F1 at a time when politics off the track are potentially more attention than what lies ahead on it, in the absolute worse case scenario this could lead Sauber even closer to the brink of following the route Caterham and Marussia went last year and it will be a costly process whatever happens because three drivers into two cars simply doesn't go.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms