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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 April, 2003, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Williams pledge to keep Ralf
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor at Imola

Williams want consistency from Ralf Schumacher
Williams want consistency from Schumacher
Williams have denied they are considering replacing Ralf Schumacher at the end of this season.

The German's contract does not run out until the end of 2004, but sources have told this website that Williams have grown frustrated with him.

His potential departure is said to have been discussed for some time on the basis of his attitude and inconsistency.

But team owner Sir Frank Williams said on Saturday: "Ralf has not been on top form in the first three races of the year and he won't mind me saying that.

"But to say that [we might replace him] is total nonsense.

It's news to me - I am working on my future after 2004 and I'm talking to a number of teams
Ralf Schumacher

"We have a perfectly valid contract to the end of 2004 and we have every intention of honouring it."

Williams, however, admitted that the team had discussed Schumacher's performances.

Schumacher said: "I am working on my future after 2004 and I'm talking to a number of teams.

"But my first choice is Williams and my contract goes to the end of 2004."

Schumacher's replacement as Juan Pablo Montoya's team-mate next year is nevertheless said by sources to be "under careful review", with Italian Giancarlo Fisichella high on the list.

The Jordan driver broke his career duck in Brazil two weeks ago and is understood to have met team boss Williams at Imola to discuss their respective positions.

If Schumacher does lose his Williams seat, Jaguar has been mentioned as a possible option in 2004.

However, there would be major obstacles in the way of Fisichella - or any other driver - taking Schumacher's seat.

Schumacher is one of the best-paid drivers on the grid, with a rumoured salary of around $15m this season, and he would likely have to be compensated if he was dropped.

Nevertheless, Williams have proved over the years that they are not shy of replacing a driver with whom they have grown dissatisfied.

Most famously, Damon Hill's contract was not renewed at the end of 1996 even though he won the world championship that year.

And Italian Alex Zanardi was dropped at the end of his first year with the team in 1999 despite having another year to run on his contract.




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