Formula One minnows Sauber on Thursday launched an appeal against a court ruling that could decide their starting line-up for this weekend`s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The Swiss team on Wednesday lost a case bought by driver Giedo van der Garde in the Victoria Supreme Court. The Dutchman claimed he was guaranteed a seat for the 2015 season but that Sauber reneged on the deal.
Van der Garde originally took his gripe to a Swiss arbitration tribunal which ordered Sauber to keep him on the team. Victoria Supreme Court Justice Clyde Croft backed that ruling, enforcing it in Australia.
Sauber, which hired Sweden`s Marcus Ericsson and rookie Brazilian Felipe Nasr for 2015, claims it will be unsafe to allow the Dutchman to drive in Sunday`s race at such short notice, with their custom-built cars not able to be reconfigured to fit his body.
"There is no practical way we can allow (and) facilitate Mr van der Garde in this new C34 Ferrari which he has not previously raced," the team`s lawyer Rodney Garratt told the three appeal judges.
"The last time he did any competitive driving was in November 2013," he added in remarks reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The concerns over safety prompted Court of Appeal Justice David Beach to question what action race officials would likely take.
"Is it part of your case that the authorities in charge of safety would not permit him to race in any event whatever this court did?" he reportedly asked Garratt.
"I really wonder what we`re all doing here if nothing we do can alter what is going to occur over the next few days."
The judges gave Sauber two hours to put their case forward.
Van der Garde, 29, a reserve driver for the Swiss team last year after competing for Caterham in 2013, said on Thursday he was keen to get back in a race car with official practice for the Melbourne race getting under way on Friday.
"I`m very fit and very strong. I`m looking forward to going back to the team, work hard and do our best for the weekend," he said.
Sauber endured a poor season in 2014, failing to register a single point in 19 races.
But they showed encouraging speed and reliability in pre-season testing with Nasr going fastest on the second day of the first test in Jerez.