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Sauber ends bad week with good results in Australia

March 15, 2015

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Two days before Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, the Sauber team was at risk of having its cars impounded and its team principal detained by local authorities.

Two hours after the lights went green, the team was celebrating a double points finish and rich promise for the year ahead.

The contractual dispute with former driver Giedo van der Garde dominated headlines in the week leading up to the race, sparking a succession of court hearings. That legal battle was only put on hold for the weekend and will resume in the coming week, but that cloud on the horizon did not dampen the enthusiasm in the garage after the race.

Felipe Nasr finished fifth — the best result on debut by any driver since Lewis Hamilton here in 2007 — and teammate Marcus Ericsson overcame a first-lap collision and consequent extra pit-stop to finish eighth.

For a team that collected zero points throughout 2014, a haul of 14 points in the opening race represented the most surprising outcome of the season opener.

It was a result that was particularly sweet for team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, after many had questioned the performance of F1′s first female team boss due to the van der Garde dispute and the dire performance levels last year.

“It is a confirmation of our hard work and a great reward for the team that had to deal with unfavorable circumstances,” Kaltenborn said. “It was an outstanding achievement which we have to be proud of.”

Nasr was expecting the worst when he was caught up in the standard first-corner chaos at Albert Park, but the Brazilian’s initial fears that the car was damage soon subsided and he went onto a fifth-place finish he could scarcely have expected.

“It is such a big relief for the team and myself that we are able to score points,” Nasr said. “That was an emotional race for me and everyone in the team.”

Ericsson, who has joined from the now defunct Caterham team, was finally able to tick off the first of his F1 ambitions by finishing in the points; the first points position by a Swedish driver since Stefan Johansson in 1989.

“It is amazing for everyone in the team here in Melbourne and also back home in the factory to get this result,” Ericsson said. “Now, we can build on this for the next race.”

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