All part of the negotiation process?

There have been reports in recent days in the German press indicating that the negotiations between Williams and Ralf Schumacher have run into difficulties. this is not surprising as Schumacher's management will be of the belief that Williams needs Schumacher in 2005 now that Juan Pablo Montoya has announced his plans to move to McLaren. It is believed that the problem is one of money and that Williams does not think that Ralf is worth the money being asked. This is dangerous ground for Schumacher because he has not covered himself in glory on enough occasions to make any wild pay demands valid and may be banking on the belief that Williams will back down under pressure from BMW. The question that Williams will be asking now is whether the team believes that Ralf has the makings of a World Champion and the fact that the two parties cannot agrees terms suggests that the team already has an answer to that question.

According to Bild Schumacher wants $15m a year for three years and Williams is only going to pay $9m. There are many in the F1 paddock who argue that Ralf is not even worth that as he makes too many mistakes and does not have the same ability to overtake as his brother Michael.

Williams would like to avoid a situation in which it changes both drivers at the same time but the team has shown many times in the past that it will not give way to demands from drivers. Schumacher's management should be aware of the fact that Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell were both dropped by the team after winning the World Championship because their pay demands were too high - and both were national heroes in Britain. Dropping Ralf Schumacher would be easy by comparison.

Williams has no shortage of other drivers to turn to with Rubens Barrichello a likely candidate for a drive in 2005 and Jenson Button and Mark Webber both on the shoppingg list.

There is talk that Ralf could go off and race for Toyota but it does not look very likely that the Cologne-based team wants him. The team is building up into a powerful force but is also lining up youngsters to drive in the years ahead.

Frank Williams and Patrick Head may be aware that BMW would prefer a German driver but they argue that BMW is not directly involved in the choice of driver and all the Munich firm really wants is a winner.

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