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GP Week : Issue 216
right up to the moment when Arnold schwarzenegger stepped on to the winners' balcony at Albert Park, I was firmly of the opinion that F1's image could not have sunk any further in the depths of indignity than those to which it had already been consigned following five days of infamy in the High Court of Victoria during which variously expensively-remunerated attorneys pummelled the sauber team on behalf of some Dutchman who thought he'd bought a seat in one of its cars. Schwarzenegger's performance changed my mind about that. The graceless Austrian muscleman, who had been employed to pose the questions in the official post- race interviews, chose to insult our sport by failing to recognise even one of the world's three greatest drivers standing in front of him. Not only did he subject them to those supremely lazy American-style 'how does it feel?' questions, but he didn't even know their names. For me, this slip-shod performance was the low point of the weekend. I sincerely hope you won't ever be back, Arnie, but if anyone chooses to invite you to another race, you will find that the drivers' names are embroidered on the waist bands of their fire suits. Which brings us back to the deprived Dutchman. While he had right on his side, having reached a financial accommodation with the Swiss team in 2014 which would have put him into a car this year, Giedo van der Garde has failed to observe certain unwritten rules of Grand Prix racing. One of these is that if ability is measured by the size of your sponsor's cheque, then you can't really complain if your chosen team concludes when someone comes along waving an even bigger cheque that you are no longer as talented as you had originally convinced it to believe. In defence of Sauber, it seems that it had been anticipating the arrival in 2015 of Jules Bianchi, the rapid Frenchman whose long-standing links with Ferrari would have guaranteed a big discount on its engine bill. Alas, that prospect vanished when Bianchi hurt himself at Suzuka last October, leaving an unexpected gap in the finances. Thus when Messrs Nasr and Ericsson presented themselves with bigger budgets than van der Garde's, the team would have been condemning itself to insolvency if it had not preferred them over the Dutch lad. In a perfect world, either the FIA or Bernie Ecclestone would have stepped into the barney before it ever got near a court room. But this was a commercial dispute, not a sporting one, and the Dutchman's sponsor (his father- in-law, as it happens) seems to have taken it all personally. There is even a suggestion that he is minded to acquire a Formula 1 team, and is aware that Sauber would become even more vulnerable to a buy-out if it were to suffer a damaging defeat in a legal case which drew attention to its shaky finances. He may even have convinced himself that the team deserves to be punished because he paid it a large sum of money last year which he is unlikely ever to see again. Unfortunately, the behaviour of Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn (right) in the affair has been less than impressive. It was already clear last year that the team would have more drivers for 2015 than it had seats to accommodate them, yet Frau Kaltenborn did herself no favours by refusing to comment under questioning from my fellow reporters. "It's none of your business," was one of her responses, which is not a satisfactory explanation for a newsman trying to explain to his readers why their favourite driver won't be racing the car that he thought he had been promised. No doubt Monisha believes that she has been behaving in the best interests of the team. But her stubbornness resulted in the legal action being pursued to the bitter end, with the unhappy consequence that it filled the pages of the local papers, and dominated discussion in the paddock, effectively blocking out the publicity which normally goes to Formula 1 at the first race of the new season. Our sport badly needs to present a positive face to the world these days, which means that anything which diminishes the public's attention is counter-productive. Fortunately, the outstanding, not to mention unexpected, results scored in Sunday's race by Sauber drivers Felipe Nasr (5th) and Marcus Ericsson (8th) will have helped to diminish the negative karma generated by the legal fuss. We can only hope that the Australian success does not stoke the antagonism of the van der Garde camp. The last thing Formula 1 needs right now is a repeat of the legal can-can when everyone shows up in Malaysia in a couple of weeks. How mUCH DAmAgE HAS THE SAUBER SAgA DonE? OPINION OPINION MIKE DOODSON 11 GPWEEK.com // 11 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: