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MAY 6, 2001

Michael no mates


Michael Schumacher, Spanish GP 2001
© The Cahier Archive

Juan Pablo Montoya has said he wouldn't do it, and Ralf Schumacher says that it would be less fun. Nobody, it seems, wants to be Michael Schumacher's team mate as Ferrari puts feelers out for a new man to step into Rubens Barrichello's shoes. Although the team has publicly stood by its second driver, insiders have pointed to disharmony as Barrichello chafes at the non-appearance of the Ôequal number one' status he feels contractually entitled to, and that contract ends at this season.

Speculation over who might move to Maranello has recently focused on Jarno Trulli, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button. Trulli is under contract to Flavio Briatore, a long-term Trulli fan, and it is thought that the Renault boss is keen to have the Italian in his team - but the money available through a deal with Ferrari might sway him.

It's also hard to find a place for Trulli in the current Renault line-up. Button is on loan for two years, and Giancarlo Fisichella is wringing the most out of the recalcitrant B201 this season.

Should Trulli leave Jordan however, the Silverstone team will cope as it has Ricardo Zonta waiting in the wings, in whom Eddie Jordan has great faith, and the race-winning talents of Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Should Trulli move to Renault in 2002 then Button might well be the man to go, and Ferrari might well be a better bet than Williams, particularly given the strength of its current line-up.

Ralf Schumacher's victory in San Marino has given weight to BMW's eagerness to have a German representing them, while Juan Pablo Montoya has the makings of a classically feisty Williams racer along the lines of Alan Jones or Jacques Villeneuve.

If this pairing is kept beyond 2002 it is believed that there is a clause in Button's contract offering substantial compensation, therefore finding him the top-line drive that he might be in everyone's interest. "Any driver would love to drive for Ferrari because they are the world champions," said Button. "They are the best team at the moment but I am not going to talk about my future."

Ferrari's influence over Sauber - to whom it supplies its Petronas badged engines - could yet see the Swiss team's outstanding rookie Kimi Raikkonen move into the hotseat.

The team plucked him from obscurity after only 23 races and may feel that it is possible to repeat the move if it can gain a favorable deal with Maranello in return. Raikkonen is managed by Steve Robertson, the son of Button's manager David, and he was less than direct in refuting Ferrari's interest.

"There has been no direct contact from Ferrari," he said. "Personally I would like him to fulfill his contract with Sauber and go to a top team as a finished article. Kimi has a lot to learn about Formula 1 still."

Michael Schumacher meanwhile is perplexed that nobody seems to want to join his team, and may well be keen to see a youngster signed as he aims to build a Ônew period of dominance' for the Scuderia.

"People try to say I make team-mates go slower, but that's rubbish," the world champion said. "I don't know why certain drivers have not come to Ferrari. There was talk of Coulthard coming, but he wasn't happy to do that as long as I was here. Villeneuve would also never come as long as I was here. So is it me - or is it the others who don't want to come?"

Coulthard rankled at Schumacher's allegation. "I was approached by Ferrari in 1997 but I had a contract with McLaren," said the Scot. "It wouldn't have bothered me to be his team-mate."