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Ralf probably quitting Williams
Alan Baldwin | April 27, 2004 17:37 IST
Last Updated: April 27, 2004 17:53 IST
Ralf Schumacher looks set to follow Juan Pablo Montoya out of Williams at the end of the year, according to the team's test driver Antonio Pizzonia.
The Brazilian hopes the departure of Michael Schumacher's younger brother could give him the opportunity to link up again with highly-rated Australian Mark Webber, his former Jaguar nemesis.
"It looks like there are going to be two seats available in the team, which is good for me," the 23-year-old told Reuters after Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix.
Pizzonia is looking for a way back onto the Formula One starting grid after being dumped by Jaguar after 11 races of his rookie season.
The driver from the Amazonian city of Manaus returned to Williams as second tester in February, helping Spanish official reserve driver Marc Gene, after carrying out the role impressively in 2002.
Paddock speculation has Webber as the leading candidate to replace Montoya, who is moving to struggling McLaren, although Renault boss Flavio Briatore controls his contract and Jaguar want to keep him.
Ralf's deal also expires at the end of 2004 and he has been linked to Toyota. Williams have not been particularly impressed by his performances so far this season and want to reduce their driver wage bills.
Pizzonia and Gene would be in the frame to replace Ralf if he left, although there are other candidates such as Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, Briton David Coulthard and New Zealander Scott Dixon.
Either test driver could hope to be promoted, just as future champion Damon Hill was in 1993 and Coulthard in 1994, to ensure continuity alongside a new face.
"I think it's looking good. Testing has been going really well for me this year, and I will be testing a lot more from now onwards," said Pizzonia of his chances.
"I think they are pretty happy with the job I am doing with the car and they said that my feedback is also very good. But it's still quite early. We have to wait to see what is going to happen."
Pizzonia failed to score a point at Jaguar and his reputation was shredded by Webber, yet to be stretched by any team mate in Formula One.
Frank Williams said before the start of the season that he had no doubt Pizzonia was very quick but he questioned the Brazilian's race form.
"One worries about what happened to him last year and in his Formula 3000 season before that," he said.
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