Ralf Schumacher has announced via his website that he will leave the Toyota Formula One team at the end of the year. There has been much speculation about the future of the German driver, and many expected him to be fired before the season finished. A string of poor performances in the first half of the 2007 campaign only added to the pressure, but to give credit where it is due, Ralf has stabilised his competitiveness recently, although he still trails his team mate in the drivers title, five points to seven.
I joined Toyota with high expectations. On the one hand, I regarded it as a major and exciting challenge to be involved in the development of a new racing car. On the other hand, I also learned to like the Japanese style of living, during my long stay in Japan before entering Formula 1. And I still get on well with the Japanese mentality. But I am waiting for years for a competitive car.
Toyota also was a nice and interesting experience – particularly the cooperation with the team, engineers and mechanics. Still, it’s time now to look for a new challenge.
I’m going to have several conversations in the coming weeks. I will announce my decision when the season is over. For me, the financial aspect is far less important than the chance of being involved in the development of a car and being successful afterwards. Ralf Schumacher.
Quite where Schumacher Jr. could land up is anyone’s guess at the moment. Scuderia Toro Rosso, who seemed likely to give him the second seat, have already confirmed their 2008 lineup, pairing Sebastian Vettel with Sebastien Bourdais. Red Bull are also sewn up, although Mark Webber has been quite outspoken recently about the reliability of his motor. Although it should be noted that the Australian is usually outspoken when his car isn’t performing as it should. Super Aguri and Spyker cannot afford him, BMW are completely wrapped up, and I doubt Williams would have him back. Besides, Frank and Patrick need to keep Toyota HQ happy and put a Japanese driver in the team (should they choose to drop Alex Wurz).
Really, the only available team that are also able to afford Ralf are Renault. And in all honesty, even if Fisichella isn’t that quick at the moment, his knowledge of the team and the car puts him at an advantage over Ralf. So does this leave Ralf going through the vacancy listings in next weeks Autosport? More than likely, Schumacher Jr will join a team in a testing capacity. He hints at this in his quote from his official site, stating that he finds the development of cars more important than money. Which team? Who knows, but Ralf will likely remain in F1 for a few more years, just as Olivier Panis did and Pedro De La Rosa still does.