After months of speculation Toyota has finally confirmed the signing of Ralf Schumacher from the 2005 season, in a three-year deal. Even since the start of this season there had been rumours about Schumacher and Toyota, which turned into Formula...
After months of speculation Toyota has finally confirmed the signing of Ralf Schumacher from the 2005 season, in a three-year deal. Even since the start of this season there had been rumours about Schumacher and Toyota, which turned into Formula One's worst kept secret in recent months. Negotiations between Schumacher and Williams repeatedly stalled and it was only a matter of time before Toyota officially confirmed the contract with Ralf.
"It is with pleasure that we can announce Ralf as one of Toyota's race drivers for the 2005 season," said team principal Tsutomu Tomita in a statement released on July 7th. "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."
Current Toyota drivers Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta will continue to the end of this season, along with third driver Ricardo Zonta and test driver Ryan Briscoe. The statement said that any further driver decisions in regard to next year would come towards the end of this season.
"We have not finalised who will partner Ralf in 2005, and this is something we are in no rush to decide on," said Tomita. "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."
"There are still 8 races of the season to go and everyone at Toyota is fully focussed on improving our level of performance to gain as many championship points as we can."
The rumour mill has linked a few drivers with the second Toyota race seat recently. Zonta has impressed as the team's third driver while David Coulthard and Jarno Trulli are reportedly under consideration.
Coulthard is out of McLaren at the end of this season to make way for Juan Pablo Montoya. Renault was expected to announce its 2005 driver line up at the French GP but didn't, fuelling talk of Trulli and Flavio Briatore being at loggerheads over the Italian's salary. However, it's only speculation.
With Toyota's confirmation of Scumacher's signing it casts doubt on whether Ralf will return to Williams this year. Recovering from fractured vertebrae, the German is likely to be out of action until the final races of the season, so may consider it not worth returning to competition in 2004.