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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 January 2006, 14:32 GMT
Toyota 'flattered' by star talk
Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher pose with the new Toyota Formula One car
Trulli and Schumacher are hopeful of a good year in 2006
Toyota did not rule out a bid for one of Formula One's biggest names in 2007 as they launched their car for this season in France on Saturday.

Toyota motorsport president John Howett said he would be "flattered" if either Michael Schumacher or Kimi Raikkonen was considering a move to Toyota.

But he added that Toyota had had "no contact" with either driver.

And he said he was confident Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher "can deliver what we want for 2006".

"We feel it is too early really to consider what we do in the future," Howett said.

"I think next year we are not capable of pushing for the championship. The next step is victory and from there we have to see as we move towards becoming serious championship contenders."

I am quite confident because the new car is running pretty well and the new engine is quite reliable and powerful
Jarno Trulli
Both Michael Schumacher and Raikkonen are out of contract with Ferrari and McLaren at the end of this year.

Schumacher, 37, has said it was only a "1% possibility" that he would drive for another team if he does not retire from F1 at the end of this year.

Raikkonen is considering a switch from McLaren at the end of 2006.

With Renault's reigning world champion Fernando Alonso already committed to McLaren for 2007, either Raikkonen or Juan Pablo Montoya will have to leave and there have been rumours that Toyota are planning to outbid Ferrari for his services with a lucrative long-term contract.

Ralf Schumacher and Trulli insisted they were not bothered by the speculation as they prepared to improve on last year's fourth place finish with Toyota.

Trulli said: "My contract is to the end of the season. Me and Toyota are focusing on the 2006 season and we are not in a hurry to renew the contract. We are talking.

"I have other options, this is very clear. In case Toyota don't want to continue I don't want to lose the other good option. I hope and I believe that if we show good performance we can carry on together."

Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta in the new Toyota F1 car
The new car has been going well in testing, according to Trulli
Ralf Schumacher, whose contract still has two years to run, said he believed drivers' agents were exploiting Toyota's cash-rich image to extract more money from other teams.

Meanwhile, Trulli said he thought world champions Renault would be destabilised by Alonso's decision to move to McLaren.

"Stability in a team is important and we might have this advantage this year," he said.

"The situation at Renault is not clear because they have two drivers who have their contracts expiring, one is going and the other I don't know.

"They need to find another good driver to replace Fernando. It was a bit of a shock when Fernando left them two months after winning the championship."

The Italian said he was confident Toyota could have a good season in 2006 because the car had performed well in testing since it was introduced late last year.

"We have new rules and don't forget Toyota has a lot of potential. We have a strong package; we just have to hope it's strong enough.

"At the moment the new car is running pretty well, the new engine is quite reliable and powerful. I am quite confident because things are running pretty well."


SEE ALSO
Ferrari poised to launch 2006 car
12 Jan 06 |  Formula One
Schumi refuses to rule out switch
12 Jan 06 |  Formula One
New Renault, Red Bull break cover
10 Jan 06 |  Formula One
Newey starts Red Bull work early
09 Jan 06 |  Formula One


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