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Ralf prepared to take pay cut?

NEWS STORY
23/03/2004

In what appears to be a clear-cut piece of back-pedalling, Ralf Schumacher's manager Willi Weber has revealed that the German is prepared to do a deal with WilliamsF1, and even accept a pay cut if necessary.

Ralf is already one of the highest paid drivers in F1, but in talks with WilliamsF1 relating to a new contract - his current contract runs out at the end of the season - the German has asked for even more money.

Team boss Frank Williams is of the old school, and in addition to believing that drivers' salaries are already far too high, believes that a good driver needs a great car, therefore he refuses to pay extortionate wages when it is his cars that are providing the driver with the equipment to win. The Englishman is a hard-nosed negotiator, as Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill, amongst others, have discovered to their cost over the years. Sir Frank will not be held to ransom.

Ralf believed that he had a strong bargaining position following Juan Pablo Montoya's decision to move to McLaren for 2005. The German clearly thought that Williams would want some sort of continuity and therefore slapped in his massive pay demand.

When talks appeared to be getting nowhere, and with speculation that the Grove outfit is looking at a number of drivers including Jenson Button, Mark Webber and IRL Champion Scott Dixon, a story surfaced linking Ralf with Renault, while Toyota is also said to have made an approach.

Renault boss Flavio Briatore immediately dismissed the rumours linking the German with the French team, while the poor form of the Toyota is hardly going to be an incentive to leave a team that has already won 9 Constructors' and 7 Drivers' Championships. Matters weren't helped when BMW Motorsport director Mario Theissen revealed that it was not mandatory that WilliamsF1 employ a German driver.

Realising that time might be running out and that his client might be up against the wall, Weber insists that he is hopeful of a solution that will keep the German at Grove.

"It looks very good that we come together," he told Reuters, it just takes a little bit of time because it's a situation where you cannot say yes or no immediately.

Weber denied that money is the sole issue: "It's not true," he said. "Fact is that we lose some money from what we earn this year. It's not lost, but the fixed payment will be reduced.

"The bonus point is that if Ralf is doing well," he continued, "he gets on the podium or wins races, then the money increases and will be the same as what we have now."

He then denied that talks had been held with either Toyota or Renault, yet according to reports it was Weber who first linked Schumacher with the French team, a story that took the pitlane totally by surprise.

"I read this in the newspaper, I have never spoken with them," he said. "I just read in the paper that they are interested in making some offer. Fact is that I have not spoken with Toyota and Renault about Ralf because again we want to stay in the team.

"Williams are the main choice and we are discussing with Frank Williams," he continued .
"We had a small meeting (in Malaysia) and I can say it was very good, so it looks always better. I want to stay with the team, Ralf also and I think that's the story."

He also denied that the deadline is next week's Bahrain GP, a claim made by Schumacher in Malaysia.

"There's no deadline," said Weber. "We just said we must draw a line to speak together because Ralf wants to know what is going on in the future. But I don't want to say it's a deadline after Bahrain.

"Even after Hungary is enough time," he added.

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