Ralf Schumacher leaves Williams for Toyota

7th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

7 July 2004 , HAMBURG - Ralf Schumacher will leave Williams-BMW for Formula One rivals Toyota after the season on a three-year contract, Toyota team boss Tsutomu Tomita announced on Wednesday. "It is with pleasure that we can announce Ralf as one of Toyota's race drivers for the 2005 season," said Tomita, putting an end to weeks of speculation about the move. "He has proven himself to be an extremely quick racing driver in his career, and I am sure that his vast experience will be extremely beneficial to o

7 July 2004

HAMBURG - Ralf Schumacher will leave Williams-BMW for Formula One rivals Toyota after the season on a three-year contract, Toyota team boss Tsutomu Tomita announced on Wednesday.

"It is with pleasure that we can announce Ralf as one of Toyota's race drivers for the 2005 season," said Tomita, putting an end to weeks of speculation about the move.

"He has proven himself to be an extremely quick racing driver in his career, and I am sure that his vast experience will be extremely beneficial to our team," he said.

Tomita refused to name figures, but Schumacher is expected to earn some USD 50 million (EUR 40.50 million) during his three-year deal until 2007.

"Whilst we cannot divulge any specific contract details, we have negotiated a reasonable deal. As usually happens regarding Formula 1 budget figures, the amount of money reported by the media is largely overestimated," Tomita said.

Williams-BMW, by contrast, reportedly planned to cut his salary dramatically to around USD 7 million dollars per season had he stayed on.

BMW motorsport chief Mario Theissen told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, that Schumacher and team boss Frank Williams had decided "after long and intense" negotiations to separate.

"Of course continuity is a factor for success in Formula One. But at the end of 2004 Ralf will have been at the team for six years. It is only natural that a driver thinks about a change," Theissen said.

Schumacher, 29, is the brother of six-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

He has been in the sport since 1997, joined Williams in 1999 and has won six races in his career, the last being the French Grand Prix in 2003. He finished fourth in the drivers standings in 2001 and 2002.

Schumacher is currently sidelined with two cracked vertebrae sustained in last month's high-speed crash at the United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis.

The move to Toyota means that Williams is without a driver for the next season as Juan Pablo Montoya leaves for McLaren.

Australian Mark Webber, currently at Jaguar, and Jacques Villeneuve, who right now has no team but won the world title 1997 for Williams, are considered the top candidates for next year.

Tomita, whose Japanese team is based in Schumacher's native Germany, said that Toyota was yet to finalize who will be the team's second driver in 2005.

He said that both of the team's current drivers, Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis, were among the candidates for the job.

"We have not finalised who will partner Ralf in 2005, and this is something we are in no rush to decide on. We are happy with the job that Cristiano and Olivier are doing for us and both of them are under consideration for the remaining race seat next season," he said.

The Toyota F1 team was founded in 1999 and made its debut in the sport in 2002. They are yet to get a race win and are currently ranked a mediocre eighth in the constructors standings with eight points from 10 season races.

DPA

Subject: German news

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