The silly season had to start at some point, and what better time than just prior to the second race of the year! And the first driver to be considered for a switch is BMW’s Nick Heidfeld. According to the German media, Toyota are looking to replace Ralf Schumacher when his contract expires at the end of 2007. Schumacher is currently one of the highest paid drivers in Formula One, but his great salary often fails to produce great results, having spent much of his time at Toyota battling with the mid-field runners. While this cannot be entirely put on Ralf’s shoulders, I find it hard to believe that he is, in his own words, “one of the top three drivers” on the grid today.
Heidfeld has recently taken a stance against his German employers, stating that he fails to understand their logic behind running test driver Sebastian Vettel on Friday Practice sessions, and with Vettel being groomed for great things by the team, Heidfeld will surely be looking carefully at the market. According to Nick’s manager, Werner Heinz, he has received offers from two top teams.
Although Toyota have one of the largest budgets in the pitlane, they have consistently failed to produce a car capable of winning races, and with the uber-expensive Schumacher in the seat, it is understandable that the team want to make some savings and shake the squad up a bit.
Should Schumacher be made redundant from Toyota, then his options are limited. BMW are working on Vettel, and they seem very keen on retaining Robert Kubica. So although the German team would go well with the other Schumacher, it would appear that this is just a dream at the moment. Red Bull may want to offer Ralf a shot in their car, as David Coulthard is nearing the end of his career. I doubt Schumacher would return to Williams, and the only other viable option is Honda.
From Heidfeld’s point of view, I cannot see how a move would benefit the quietly-spoken German driver. BMW are making rapid progress, and the F1.07 is looking to be a reasonably strong car. However, if relationships are beginning to sour, then maybe a move would be good. But seriously, Toyota?