Ralf Schumacher's future

THERE are stories in Germany, emanating from Willi Weber, Ralf Schumacher's manager, that the youngster is close to signing a new deal with BMW Williams. There is no doubt that BMW would like that and no doubt Weber would be interested in the getting Schumacher's career sorted out well in advance (as he likes to do with his other client Michael Schumacher). However it is not as clear why Williams would want to sign the deal right now. Ralf has done well this year, winning at Imola, but Juan-Pablo Montoya has got very close to him in terms of performance - and he has done it very quickly. As the Colombian learns more he is going to get faster and then it will be a question of which man will come out on top. In the past Schumacher Jr. has shown himself to be susceptible to pressure from a quick team mate but Montoya has shown himself to be rock solid.

The Williams contracts of both Ralf and Montoya run out at the end of 2002 and Williams has Jenson Button on an option to take over in 2003 and 2004. This gives Williams the chance to keep its faster driver and put him up against Button. Montoya has impressed a lot of people in F1 and it is expected that he will get some serious offers in the future but Williams may want to move quickly and lock him in for another two or three years. This would mean that Schumacher would probably have to go, despite pressure from BMW for a German driver.

Williams is unlikely to be cajoled into signing up Ralf at the moment, preferring to see how things develop this year before committing to one driver or the other. This may mean that Ralf will end up on the market and in all probability he will be snapped up by McLaren or Jaguar Racing for 2003.

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