For those just joining the story, van der Garde is a Dutch driver who rose up through the ranks, winning the Formula Renault 3.5 Series along the way and breaking into F1 as a test driver. He contested the 2013 Formula One World Championship for Caterham before switching to Sauber, which had hired him for the race seat for this season before changing tracks and retaining Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr instead.
His contract not honored, van der Garde proceeded to take Sauber to court first in Switzerland where the team is based and then in Australia where last weekend's season opener took place. The courts all ruled that Sauber had to honor its contract with van der Garde, but instead of ousting Ericsson or Nasr, the team and the dejected driver worked out a compromise, with Bernie Ecclestone helping to broker the deal.
As a result, Sauber will pay van der Garde a substantial settlement, reported at $16 million. The money will likely come out of the sponsorship revenues that van der Garde brought to the team. The driver says his backers paid Sauber the full amount for this season and the last early last year "in good faith" but that the terms were not honored.
After spending four (non-consecutive) seasons as a test driver with Spyker, Force India, Caterham and Sauber, and one as Caterham's race driver, van der Garde admits his F1 career has likely now come to an end, looking towards a WEC LMP1 or DTM drive for the future. On his way out of F1, though, he's calling for a shakeup in the sport that would see drivers' rights upheld in a more scrupulous fashion.
"There are numerous examples of talented drivers with good intentions but without the sort of professional support that I have had, who have been broken by Formula 1 and who have seen their careers destroyed," van der Garde was quoted as saying. "I therefore hope that my unprecedented case which was heard last week by the Supreme Court of Victoria at Melbourne will serve as an example to illustrate what should change, and that new regulations will be implemented to help protect driver rights."