Giedo van der Garde is still in the Albert Park paddock on Friday, even though Sauber’s two other contracted race drivers were seated in the cars.
But Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr went nowhere in Friday practice, highlighting the depth of the legal crisis at the struggling Swiss team.
Earlier, Dutchman van der Garde had pulled on Ericsson’s race overalls and had a seat fitting in Nasr’s car.
But it is understood the team was simply complying with the local supreme court’s order, amid the threat the cars could be seized and team boss Monisha Kaltenborn arrested.
Kaltenborn made her first appearance of the week on Friday, but is believed to have then left the paddock shortly afterwards.
Sauber has not issued a single ‘tweet’ since Monday.
The team is reportedly not fully cooperating with the van der Garde camp, amid rumours the 29-year-old’s wealthy backers made a $8 million upfront payment last August.
As recently as Thursday evening, Sauber informed the FIA its drivers for the weekend are Nasr and Ericsson.
Van der Garde had to obtain a guest pass simply to enter the paddock, and the FIA has accommodated him for the day in its offices.
“I’m staying here,” van der Garde said after taking off Ericsson’s overalls as he walked through the Melbourne paddock in casual clothes.
The paddock rumour is that the FIA is helping him to fast-track his application for a super licence, which could be ready in time for Saturday practice and qualifying.
“I don’t know,” van der Garde said when asked about that. “We’ll see later.”
Indeed, court proceedings will resume in Melbourne on Friday afternoon.
Van der Garde’s lawyer says Sauber is refusing to sign a document so that his super licence application can be formalised.
“Sauber simply refuses to complete the paperwork,” the lawyer said.
Around the paddock, although there is sympathy for the plight of F1’s struggling smaller teams, many are unimpressed with Sauber’s handling of the affair.
Niki Lauda told the Swiss newspaper Blick the team’s methods amid the crisis have been “strange”.
“Agreements must be complied with,” said the Mercedes team chairman and F1 legend. “To put it politely, negligence is the same in any business around the world.” (GMM)