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Toyota to axe Ralf, hire Sutil UPDATE #4 (GMM)  Following the lead of his management team, formula one rookie Adrian Sutil has dealt another blow to speculation that he could replace Ralf Schumacher at Toyota in 2008.

"It is clear that I signed a long term contract," 24-year-old Sutil, who debuted this year for the Spyker team, told the news agency Sport-Informations-Dienst (sid).

He added: "So it is safe to assume that next year I will be here as well."

The young German has, however, cemented his reputation as a rising grand prix star at the wheel of his orange Spyker so far this season not only by regularly outshining Christijan Albers, but by also topping a wet practice session recently in Monaco.

He told the specialist magazine Motorsport Aktuell: "One of my strengths is that I quickly become very comfortable at all the tracks."

Sutil confirmed that his goal for 2007 had been to outclass his more experienced teammate, so that he does not need to spend "more than two years" on the final rows of the grid.

"After then, I want to make the next step into the middle of the field," he declared.

06/04/07 A Toyota insider has warned his F1 bosses to scrap an apparent deadline that could destroy Ralf Schumacher's grand prix career.

According to speculation, chiefs of the Cologne based outfit have told 31-year-old Schumacher that if he doesn't close the gap to teammate Jarno Trulli by the end of the upcoming US grand prix, he will be replaced by test driver Franck Montagny.

But an unnamed Toyota insider told the newspaper Express: "Franck is doing an excellent job for us. But he is not definitely faster than Ralf."

Schumacher, meanwhile, denied that a visit to Toyota's formula one factory after the Monaco grand prix amounted to so-reported 'crisis talks'.

"It was only for technical questions, particularly about how to best prepare the car for Montreal, one of my favorite circuits," Ralf insisted.

His manager Hans Mahr has however now begun negotiating with Toyota about a contract renewal for 2008, and said: "Toyota has so far rejected all of this speculation, and we have nothing to add.

"Ralf has never been worried about these types of rumors anyway."

Meanwhile, Adrian Sutil's management has stepped away from speculation that the Spyker rookie could be at the top of the list to snare a Toyota race seat.

The German press last week linked the impressive 24-year-old with Ralf Schumacher's ride, after it emerged that Toyota could be looking to replace Schumacher as soon as the French grand prix in July.

Alongside the experienced Christijan Albers in 2007, Sutil has emerged as the quicker of Spyker's race lineup and in Monaco sensationally topped a wet practice session.

His manager Manfred Zimmermann told Auto Motor und Sport: "The progress he is making with Spyker is very positive, and we are quite sure that Adrian will be an interesting prospect for other teams in the future.

"But at the moment, we are planning for his future with Spyker."

05/31/07 (GMM) Speculation about the flagging career of Toyota's Ralf Schumacher has continued to worsen.

Newspaper reports on Tuesday suggested that the former six-time grand prix winner, who qualified a dreary twentieth in Monaco last weekend, could be dropped by the team if he does not close up on the pace of his teammate Jarno Trulli over the next two races.

Now, the German tabloid 'Bild' is linking impressive Spyker rookie Adrian Sutil - who sensationally topped a wet practice time sheet in Monaco Carlo last weekend - with 31-year-old Ralf's race seat.

Sutil's manager Karl-Heinz Zimmermann said: "After (Adrian's) recent performances, one or two team managers have enquired about his situation, but up to now there have been no negotiations.

"We are basically very happy with Spyker."

Former grand prix driver Christian Danner, however, doubts that Cologne based Toyota is about to "fire" Schumacher, who joined the team in 2005 on an annual retainer of about (US) $20m.

The German is quoted as saying by Sport-Informations-Dienst: "For Toyota, there is no alternative to Ralf, so I think he still has a future there." 

05/30/07 (GMM) Ralf Schumacher is unlikely to race in formula one for Toyota next year and he could even be shown the door before the end of 2007.

That is the claim of the German newspaper Bild, which said bosses of the Cologne based team intend to make a decision about the beleaguered 31-year-old's crisis after the upcoming double-header in North America.

"It is not inconceivable that another driver will sit in Ralf's cockpit in France," the report reads.

Schumacher, whose elder brother Michael retired as F1's most successful-ever driver last year, is strongly backed by Toyota president John Howett.

But officials in Japan are alarmed that, equipped with an identical Toyota engine, the considerably less funded Williams is already two points superior to the works team in the constructors' standings.

Toyota spokeswoman Fernanda Villas-Boas predictably blanked Bild's story, insisting that talks between Ralf and Toyota are "ongoing".

Schumacher's manager Hans Mahr insisted: "We have a contract to the end of the season. And we very much hope that Toyota, as they always have, keep to their word."

05/29/07 (GMM) Toyota's F1 president John Howett has admitted that the Cologne based team could be on the lookout to replace Ralf Schumacher at the end of 2007.

31-year-old Schumacher is enduring an abysmal season at the wheel of the TF107, and he found a new low in Monte Carlo when he qualified behind Spyker's Adrian Sutil in twentieth place.

It is well-documented that Ralf is coming to the end of his current multi-million dollar contract with his Japanese employer, but Howett has traditionally been the German's staunchest supporter.

But Briton Howett, who already has Schumacher's teammate Jarno Trulli under contract for 2008, told the newspaper Bild: "It is only professional that we observe the (driver) market."

Howett, though, insisted that Toyota is still working to help Schumacher overcome his difficulties with the machine.

"Of course it is frustrating, but to say that he is completely alone would be wrong. We must give him a better car," he added.

Reporters for the specialist magazine Sport Bild, meanwhile, say they overheard BMW teammates Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica discussing Ralf's alarming lack of pace on 'day off' Friday in Monte Carlo.

Nick asked Robert if he thought the 'Schumacher' name would still be a feature of the F1 grid beyond this year.

"I don't know," Kubica answered, "but the kind of money he makes at the moment definitely will not be there for him any more."

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