I like Sauber. I remember the days as far back as Jean Alesi, then names like Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and even Sebastian Vettel spent time with the team scrapping it out with the big boys and really making a show of it at times. The team history reads like a who’s who of F1 with a gaggle of recognizable names, sponsors and team partnerships including big boys like BMW, Mercedes, Petronas, Ford and others. It’s fun to cheer on a small, under-funded team. It’s the whole ‘David and Goliath‘ things – we all like to root for the underdog. Except when the underdog gets infected with the rabies.
In this case Sauber is suffering from the rabies of greed, ignorance and stupidity, and a public relations fail that they just keep making worse.
We all know the story. In brief, Sauber signed to many drivers, and all of them pay-to-play drivers. They signed 4 drivers as a matter of fact for just two seats in F1 rides for 2015. In the end, Sauber was forced to choose 2 of those 4 for their drivers for 2015,and wouldn’t you know,m they chose the two that paid the most money to drive.
Up to this point, I have no fault against Sauber. When you are struggling financially, as all smaller teams are, you take money where you can get it, with the hopes that these young drivers with money would turn out to have half a much talent as they had cash. While this is a much debated and sometimes maligned practice, let’s face it – sometimes it pays off. While many pay drivers have gone on to have respectable careers, some drivers that got their start by paying to drive turned out to have fantastic careers: Niki Lauda, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso just to name a few. I don;t even have such an issue with Sauber signing 4 drivers really. You sing what you think is a good deal, and a better one comes along. In life, this is a real bummer and you put a great deal of credence into integrity and ‘doing the right thing’. In business however, the weight of philosophical rights or wrongs is lighter, and so decisions are based more on value and less on morality. But, so sign 4 drivers, taking their money, and then not giving that money back after you no longer required their services is just worng. Not just morally, but legally. At least in the minds of both European and Australian Courts.
Here’s where the PR issues come to the front page.
We all got to see this playout at the track this past weekend at Albert Park. Some news of the Sauber/Giedo van der Garde lawsuit was in our faces each day, with updates coming almost hourly. Sauber was ordered that they must permit van der Garde to drive at the race. In the end, as this has been ground out in the media already, the courts ruled in favor of Giedo van der Garde on every account, and rather than force Sauber to allow him to drive, in a last minute agreement, van der Garde acquiesced on the plea to drive, and putting the fans and F1 in general in front of himself, came to a settlement allowing Sauber to race with other drivers. Good on van der Garde. Here’s what he had to say,
“To push on against this determination might have brought down the team, it would most certainly have wrecked the opening Grand Prix in Melbourne because the team´s cars would have been seized by the court, it may have ruined the careers of two young drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. Possibly the team´s directors would even be taken into custody.”
However, like the adage goes, ‘no good deed goes unpunished’. After all the dust settled in Australia, Giedo van der Garde released a statement on his Facebook page that explains his side of the story. In spite of his obvious passion in the statement, van der Garde was concise and polite.
To the utter surprise of virtually everyone that has any involvement with Formula 1 Racing, Sauber released a counter-statement. To read it boggles the mind. In part, Sauber says:
“We don’t know about Giedo’s intentions. He may try to present himself as a winner, while we had actually hoped to come to rest after our agreement. Giedo decided to take a different approach – the reasoning behind we cannot understand.”
You can’t understand?? He may try to present himself as a winner?? Are you serious? Sauber – take note: You wronged this man in every way. Every Court that adjudicated this case ruled in his favor. He IS in fact the winner, and you must pay (unspecified) funds to make reparations in this case. That, by definition of law, makes van der Garde the Winner, and Dauber the Loser. And releasing this sad statement, makes you an even BIGGER loser.
The fans responded quickly, and viciously. It did not take long for the feelings of the fans to be known:
“There is a tremendous lack of professionalism from Sauber in this post. They are trying to put the blame on Giedo.”
“An expexted comment; take your responsibility, you did things the wrong way. His accusations are completely justified, he is a passionate driver and he thought he had a chance to race with you, since he had a contract. I’ve lost a lot of respect for Sauber, you can’t treat people like this.”
‘You took his money to keep the team alive,then ditched him for 2 drivers with more money,what did you expect?’
‘Your team stole his money (giedo’s, adrian’s, and simona’s) and then act like you did nothing wrong? Are you kidding me? You screwed over two drivers last year because YOUR management couldn’t find sponsorship money, but you blame it on the drivers when they come back asking for what is rightfully theirs? Unbelievable that your management is this delusional.’
And finally this:
“It’s what happens when you sign four drivers for two cars you greedy dicks!“
Sauber – you have much to learn, and we are disappointed in you. We expected better.