Ralf and Williams to part.

02-22-2004, 12:32 PM
Ralf Schumacher hits out at Williams
''I can't allow myself to be treated like that'' [22/02/04 - 18:36]

Ralf is not happy!

Formula One star Ralf Schumacher has hit out at Williams team boss Frank Williams and threatened to leave the team in an interview Sunday in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Schumacher's contract negotiations with Williams over the past few months have not been finalised and the younger of the Schumacher brothers accused Williams of suddenly retracting a new contract that was all set to be signed.

"Even if me and my manager Willi Weber would find it hard to leave behind our friends at BMW, there's a chance it could happen," said Schumacher, who finished fourth in last season's Formula One world championship drivers' standings.

"It would be sad but I can't allow myself to be treated like that by Williams. I'm not frustrated," added Schumacher. "But I find it hard to understand certain things that have happened these past few months."

Schumacher claims that Williams, who he said offered him a contract then retracted it, has accused him of only being interested in money. "Frank Williams says I'm nothing but a money-grabber. I can only laugh at that. He knows that I would accept to cut my current salary in half," added Schumacher.

Schumacher said he was furious when Williams failed to turn up to sign a new contract last year. "I wanted to sign. We scheduled a meeting for the final race of the season in Japan but Frank Williams wasn't there and then he suddenly pulled the offer. On a human level I'm very disappointed with him."

Schumacher's team-mate, Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya, is already set to leave Williams after agreeing to drive for McLaren in 2005. And, in an interview with another German paper, Welt am Sonntag, Montoya fired a warning shot to six-time world champion Michael Schumacher that things were about to change this season.

"His performances speak for themselves, but Michael has never experienced really strong opposition throughout his career," Montoya, 28, told the paper. "That will all change this season because there are a lot of drivers who can actually win races, and they want to."

02-24-2004, 03:12 AM
Sir Frank must be finaly as fed up with Willi Weber as the rest of us.

Get Ralf and JPM out and make room for the Australian. Sir Frank and Head always revered Alan Jones, they'd love to find another like him. Hopefully Mark Webber can fill those boots.

02-24-2004, 10:26 AM
Webber and Fisi would be fine with me.

02-27-2004, 08:45 AM
"He knows that I would accept to cut my current salary in half," added Schumacher."

I dont think so.

02-27-2004, 01:35 PM
Yeah, he has denied any disagreements basically.

03-01-2004, 06:44 AM
Interesting comments re: montoya; fireworks at the Williams team...


Ralf Schumacher pulled his ski hat tightly over his ears and sank deeper into the plush seat of his swanky blue BMW 525i. His window rolled shut with a whirr and a click. A shutter seemed to slide down the length of his face at the same time.Schumacher folded his arms. The German racer looked set for a session of serious brooding.

"I won't keep you too long," I said with a placatory promise.

"Good," he grunted.

But then, as if he could not lose himself totally in the prima donna role, Schumacher leaned across and pushed back my passenger seat to give me some more leg room.

"OK?" he said.

"Pretty comfy," I confirmed.

We weren't going to be buddies, but it was a start. At Silverstone we had stepped into his sponsored car to escape an icy wind and the scream of rival engines echoing around the track as another grand prix season, beginning this Sunday in Melbourne, closed in on us. In the intimate hush of Schumacher's stationary BMW, the stealthy political machinations of formula one were soon sharply defined.

"I'm sure Frank Williams has his reasons for taking all these decisions over the last few months," Schumacher said with a dismissive shrug aimed at his own formula one team chief, "but I don't really understand them. I don't care about next year any more. Everything depends on this season."

On the gleaming surface of a business pretending to be a sport, Williams should be set for a glorious return to the very zenith of motor racing. With Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya in the cockpit, and the best engine on the grid supplied by BMW, the Wantage-based team are ready to do battle with Ferrari.

Yet any pretence of harmony in their pit has been shattered. Having already lost Montoya to McLaren next season, Williams are now locked in a bitter dispute with Schumacher. They are in danger of being abandoned by both of their drivers before the end of the year.

"I was very surprised that Williams didn't keep Juan," Schumacher stressed, a startling reflection on a team-mate he had never previously praised. "He is a top driver but they gave him the opportunity to leave. Juan felt he'd had enough and needed another challenge. But Williams didn't fight too hard to keep him."

To lose their Colombian ace might be seen as unfortunate, but the departure of a German hero in the younger Schumacher would irk BMW far more. While Frank Williams and Patrick Head, his technical director, have been lauded for decades as unsentimental and relentless operators, this latest racing saga will test them yet again.

Their contract with BMW has never enjoyed the sheen of an easy relationship. In Williams's own words, "you don't get cosy and bosomy with BMW." And so this tense triangular struggle between Schumacher, Williams and BMW is a curiously fitting way to begin another season of formula one intrigue and in-fighting.

The previously muted row between Schumacher and Williams spilled over into open acrimony last week when the driver was said by the German newspaper Bild an Sonntag to have issued a threat to quit the team. While insisting he would find it hard to "leave behind our friends at BMW," Schumacher lashed out at a claim that he had been called a "money grabber" by Williams. "I can only laugh at that," Schumacher said. "I am very disappointed with him."

After asking whether I had "read the German press", Schumacher confirmed he had not been misquoted. He claimed the article had only been incorrect to suggest that he had threatened to leave Williams.

"I had an agreement with Frank before the last race at Suzuka. The contract was drawn up and I was ready to sign in Japan. But Frank didn't show up. I was told he'd changed his mind and wanted to talk more. He is a tough negotiator and always tries to get a better position for his team. I have no problem with that. But he changed his mind after we had reached agreement. So I said, 'OK, if you pull out of this contract then we shall have to wait and see what happens.' I stopped all negotiations. I don't want to talk about this contract now until later in the season."

According to Thomas Hoffman, Schumacher's amiable personal assistant who sat in the back seat of our BMW-based interview, the stand-off was a clash between "two determined personalities. Ralf has the same character as Frank. That's why they are fighting at the moment."

But Schumacher is also rumoured to have entered negotiations to join Toyota once his £12m contract with Williams ends in December. At the launch of their new grand prix car in Cologne six weeks ago, Toyota's Ove Andersson said that "if Ralf or David [Coulthard] came knocking at my door, I would look more seriously at Ralf." Hoffman smiled at the invitation: "Ralf is not knocking."

Schumacher drummed his fingers lightly on the steering wheel. "All that matters is that we have a very good car this year. I hope to stay at Williams, but you never know exactly what will happen in formula one."

The truth of that statement was made even more obvious by Schumacher's sudden u-turn in attitude towards Montoya. Where they once never attempted to hide their mutual antipathy, Schumacher revealed he now sided with the brilliant but moody Montoya over their poker-faced boss. The German took an almost perverse pleasure in denying he had ever wanted Montoya to find another team, somewhere near the back of the grid, preferably Minardi . . .

"No," he said with an amused raise of his eyebrow, "I never said that. I think it's a shame to lose Juan. It's even more disappointing that he is moving to a strong team."

While conceding that "it would be nice to be the No1 driver" (it is a clause he is supposedly seeking to write into his new contract with Williams), Schumacher was almost comically diplomatic towards the departing Montoya. "If you are in a team like ours, where Juan and me are pretty equal and both capable of winning races on a regular basis, then it's impossible to choose a No1 between us." This helps explain the antagonism that has existed between them, as Montoya is currently paid around £5m a year less than his team-mate.

As for who might replace the Colombian, Schumacher could not resist another dig at his boss. "I think Jenson Button would be a good bet," he said, before pausing dramatically while he considered the counter-claim that Mark Webber, currently with Jaguar, was thought to be Williams's preferred choice.

"Webber . . ." Schumacher said with a cool little laugh. "Well, that would be much easier for me if it's Webber rather than Button. But, sure, fine, if that's what Frank wants . . ."

Last year, Schumacher drove with the kind of imperious authority more usually associated with his brother while winning successive races at the Nürburgring and Magny-Cours. Yet he bridled when told that Williams recently said in Autosport magazine, "Ralf's a funny guy. There were races last year when he'd pass people as if they weren't there - which he normally just doesn't do. He exceeded his own known abilities."

"The answer is simple," Schumacher said briskly. "Whenever we had a good car then it was possible for me to perform well. I must say that in the last five years Frank hasn't been able to provide me with a good car all the time. Until the middle of last year it was not great.

"This year is different. For the first time we can win in Melbourne and then compete for the championship. Even more than Ferrari, I think we're the only team to get real reliability without losing any of our power. That's a great achievement."

While obviously not averse to criticising Frank Williams, Schumacher was more intent on underlining his renewed empathy with the team's engineers. The spat with his pit crew in Indianapolis last year, when Schumacher blamed his "chaotic" team for costing him victory, had apparently been settled.

"We had good meetings in the winter to make sure that doesn't happen again. The team made some slight mistakes in strategy but I made the bigger mistake by spinning off the track. That maybe cost us the constructors' championship. But with such a good car now, it would be a waste to keep pointing fingers.

"It's going to be a very open season. Apart from us and Ferrari, McLaren will become very strong. I know they have some problems now but they will be right up there. BAR and Renault could win some races. I'm not saying they will fight for the championship but they will steal some points. But this could be our year."

Asked whether he visualised himself as world champion, Schumacher looked briefly alarmed. "No," he said quickly. "Not yet . . ." It sounded like the kind of equivocation which would cast deeper doubts in Williams's already questioning mind.

"He's not always aggressive enough," Williams complained recently. "I'd imagine Ralf's so pissed off having a brother who's that successful, he'd practically kill to beat him."

"I don't call it a shadow," the 28-year-old Ralf said of his relationship with Michael, who won a record sixth drivers' title last season. "Things have changed. Maybe the first two or three years I got lots of questions about Michael. But those questions have disappeared. Michael is world champion, but that does not influence me."

Yet any championship hopes that Ralf might uncover will still be blocked by Michael's flashing red car.

"There's nothing that can surprise me about Michael as a racing driver. He will be just as quick and hungry this year. Of course he's had some perfect years. But to win season after season is a great motivation for him. So he will race on because winning is never boring. We both know that. That's why we never thought of doing anything else. We began racing karts at 2."

Ralf will take his own son, David, on to the karting track when he reaches that same 2-year milestone this summer. "He watches some of my races and knows my car. But I'm happy he has more fun racing his little electro-cars. Whether he wants to do it more seriously when he is older will be up to him. I will support him completely, as long as he does it right and puts effort into it."

Schumacher paused again as another formula one car screamed past his silent BMW. "This is a tough world, full of tough people. I can tell him my experiences one day. I can tell him that this is racing. It's another world."

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