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Is Ralf Burning Bridges?

Is Ralf Burning Bridges?

Ralf Schumacher - 2007 Italian Grand PrixAs Alianora pointed out in the comments yesterday, Ralf Schumacher has stated he is not interested in driving for the Force India team despite testing for them at Jerez on Thursday. The re-branded Jordan-Midland-Spyker outfit are on the prowl for some decent drivers and have tested a fair few since the 2007 season ended last October. Among those having tried their hands at the car are Franck Montagny, Christian Klien and Giancarlo Fisichella. Fisichella seemed relatively happy after his two days running and even placed the car in ninth spot after the first day. Franck didn’t look particularly upset with his experience and Klien has been on a bit of a high recently after impressing the right people at the squad. So why is Ralf Schumacher unhappy?

Before the test Schumacher was very clear to point out that the test with Force India was not designed to be a shoot-out between himself and possible Renault refugee Fisichella. But at the same time Ralf was upset because the Italian was given two days in the cockpit whereas Ralf only had one. Then, after the days running where the ex-Toyota driver could get the car no higher than last place, Schumacher said the following:

It was not shoot-out. I don’t think I will be driving for Force India. I want to achieve something and I don’t think I can do that with Force India. I am going home now and we will see. Ralf Schumacher.

Perhaps it is the way I’m reading it, but Schumacher’s quote there reams of poor attitude. As I say, the tone can be interpreted any way you like, but to spend a day with a team, driving their car and spending their money, to then turn around and say you don’t think they can help you achieve what you want to achieve; it just seems a bit off. Rude, in fact.

So with Force India not appealing to the German driver, what are his other options? Well, it all depends on Fernando Alonso. Now the WMSC have ruled not to penalise Renault, hopefully we will get a decision on the driver front soon. Should Alonso return to Enstone, then that just leaves McLaren, possibly Red Bull Racing and possiblyRalf Schumacher - 2007 Italian Grand Prix Super Aguri. Although I doubt very much the latter two teams would make any changes should Alonso go to Renault.

Other than waiting for Prodrive, that’s it.

One has to ask how a race winner who is only 32 years old has managed to find himself in a situation of potential unemployment? At the ripe ol’ age of 35 and having failed to score a single point last season, Rubens Barrichello finds himself still on Honda’s books, and 36 year old David Coulthard is teaching the kids a thing or two at Red Bull.

Barrichello, Coulthard and Schumacher have had similar careers; some good cars, some poor cars, a few wins, a world champion team mate. But for some reason, it appears as though Schumacher’s career, despite being the last to start, could be the first to end.

Update: And as I typed up this post, Ralf had the following to say to the media:

It is not planned that I will drive for Force India in 2008. I do not believe that next year I will be here [with Force India]. It looks as though that was my last ride in a F1 car. I now have to consider what is best for me. Maybe it means I will stay at home. Of course I am not blindly slamming the door, but it [any offer] would really have to make sense. Ralf Schumacher.

Now I feel a twinge of guilt as I spoke about his apparent rudeness towards Force India and lack of pace in comparison to his peers. But perhaps Ralf has now finally accepted that although he has won races and succeeded where so many have failed, his time inside a Formula One car is up. At least there is one less player in the giant musical race-seats game now.

Oliver White

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