JULY 31, 2006
Webber at liberty
The Williams team has decided not to take up the option it had on Mark Webber. The option had to be taken up by the end of July but it seems that the team and the Australian driver decided that it would be a good idea to give one another a little bit of space and see what opportunities are available.
"We're still talking," said Sir Frank Williams on Sunday evening at Hockenheim.
There remains a good chance that Webber will end up back at Williams with the new Williams-Toyota package but there are a number of other possibilities that are available at the moment and Webber's management are understood to be looking at them. If these do not result in a deal Webber could go back to Williams as the two parties have already done a deal on money. Our spies tell us that this is not the same deal that was previously on offer because Williams is keen to save money at the moment.
On the face of it, Webber has chances at McLaren and Renault, but he may have to wait to see what happens with Kimi Raikkonen. We believe that there is a Ferrari option on Raikkonen that must be either taken up or extended within the next few days and if Ferrari fails to sign him, he can join Renault. Ferrari may try to extend the option (which will cost money) but will not want to let Raikkonen go as it seems that he is the man that Ferrari wants in the longer term. Michael Schumacher's future is the us the key issue as if Michael retires, Kimi will join Ferrari. There is talk of the two men working together but that does not seem like a very workable solution. If Ferrari lets Raikkonen go, it could end up with egg on its face if Michael decides suddenly that he wants to quit. Michael may be basing his decision on whether or not he thinks he will win the World Championship this year and so it is possible that he will not decide his plans for some time yet.
Webber may also have a chance at McLaren but such a move would only be a short-term deal while younger drivers are trained up for F1 and it would also open the way for McLaren to lose Lewis Hamilton, which would be a daft thing to do at this stage.
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