There have been rumours flying around for most of the latter half of the season, but now it is confirmed that Ralf Schumacher is going to leave Toyota. 2007 has been a dismal season for him, with only 5 points to his name so far. He joined Toyota in 2005 and has never really had much success with them, and this year he has been repeatedly outpaced by his team mate Jarno Trulli.
Toyota have always looked like they should be successful, they are a major car manufacturer, they have the budget and the team behind them to make a winning car. But their drivers have been left frustrated at the lack of pace, and Ralf has enjoyed only three podiums in the three years he has been with them.
Although keeping quiet about his future plans, Schumacher came clean about his decision to leave via his website, saying that he wants a new challenge. Despite being one of the highest paid drivers on the grid (a lot of people have speculated why, given the lack of success), Ralf reveals that he is not concerned about the money, but he wants to concentrate on helping to develop a car that will be successful.
Toyota have released a statement that has the usual well wishes and good feeling towards Ralf, but ultimately says that it doesn’t affect the team too much. They have been looking around for potential drivers for 2008 anyway, and will therefore just need to cross Ralf off their list. Trulli is confirmed for 2008, so there is a seat at Toyota going spare, and rumours are rife as to who it might be.
As with many of the driver signings for the next year, a lot of it seems to depend on what Alonso decides to do. If he stays at McLaren then it will be the usual drivers to choose from, although BMW tester Timo Glock has been mentioned in speculation. If Alonso moves on from McLaren, then it throws the whole drivers market wide open. Renault also appear to be waiting for a decision from the defending world champion, but their car is unlikely to entice the Spaniard back to his former team. If they can buck up their 2008 car, then it could be like going back in time to 2006!
Either way, Ralf Schumacher will not be at Toyota. He intends to wait until after the season ends before making any announcement about his future.