A little known Formula 1 test driver is causing a big stir amongst two of the back marker teams. Giedo van der Garde was confirmed as a test and reserve driver for Super Aguri in December. The team supported him and gave him the mileage to try and clock up enough cockpit time to qualify for his super licence.
Last week, at the launch of their new car for 2007, Spyker announced four test drivers (which seems excessive), one of whom was van der Garde. According to the news coming out of both camps, it would appear that Super Aguri werenít aware van de Garde was even interested in Spyker, and they still have a valid contract with him for the coming season. However, Spyker and van der Garde himself, both believe that he signed a contract with them before Christmas and that he will be testing for them in 2007.
As it stands, the teams are arguing their cases back and forth, but with no sign of a resolution. One side says he belongs to them, and the other say that they have rights to his driving abilities. If they cannot sort this out amicably, then it will have to be taken higher, to the FIA and subsequent courts to judge.
This isnít the first time a contract dispute has taken place, and it wonít be the last. At the end of 2005, Jenson Button was caught between WilliamsF1 and the then-called BAR-Honda. His loyalties lay with Honda, however, he had signed a contract to drive for their rival for the 2006 season. At the end of 2005, he and everyone else could see that Williams didnít have championship winning potential, and he wanted to back out. In the end, it was settled with Button buying his way out of the contract, thus giving Williams a much needed cash injection.
In this case, it is unlikely that van der Garde will be able to buy his way out of whichever contract is deemed to be the legal one. But at the same time, I cannot believe the teams would have enough funds to take this case all the way to the top. At his level Ė a test driver for one of the lesser known teams Ė I would suggest that all driving experience is good experience, and he should grab any opportunity that comes his way. There are plenty of other drivers who would jump into his shoes, or into the cockpit, in a heartbeat.