MAY 31, 2007

Replacing Ralf...

There were well-founded rumours in Monaco that Ralf Schumacher may be dumped by Toyota if there is not a sudden and dramatic improvement in his level of performance in the next couple of races.

Publicly the team and the driver say that they are discussing a new long-term deal but the team seems to be wondering whether Ralf is worth $1m a weekend when he is only able to battle with backmarkers like Spyker and Toro Rosso. Schumacher scored a point for eighth place in Melbourne but since then he his best result is 12th.

Jarno Trulli has done rather better in the other car with two seventh places but it seems that Toyota is now beginning to wonder whether results might improve dramatically if the team took a risk. The arrival of Lewis Hamilton has shown what a rookie can do in the right situation and some teams are now having a serious think about whether to hold on to the older generation of drivers. The problem is that there are very few young drivers with proven potential and some F1 experience. Honda driver Anthony Davidson has done an enormous amount of testing but he still has to prove that he can race as well as the big stars, while Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed have been inconsistent thanks, in part, to poor preparation by the team. Adrian Sutil looks quite promising but needs more time to develop.

If Schumacher is kicked out of the team, it is anticipated that Toyota would probably turn to its test driver, Frenchman Franck Montagny but may be looking at some of the above in the longer term.