Ralf Schumacher is leaving Williams-BMW and is set to sign a contract to drive for Renault next season. In an era in which the driver lineups of F1’s top three teams have remained stable, the move will kickstart the sport’s silly season as early as mid March.

Ralf Schumacher is leaving Williams-BMW and is set to sign a contract to drive for Renault next season. In an era in which the driver lineups of F1’s top three teams have remained stable, the move will kick start the sport’s silly season as early as mid March.

In an interview on Tuesday, Schumacher’s manager, Willi Weber, said the German had already agreed to the contract details with Renault's Flavio Briatore.

"We have agreed every point of the contract with Briatore," said Weber. "The signing of the contract is a mere formality."

Schumacher, who finished fourth in the Australian Grand Prix, had been unhappy with Williams for a while and, with the expiration of his contract at the end of the season, was keen to leave.

Late last month, reports surfaced of the driver's dissatisfaction at the way in which his contract negotiations were progressing and in an interview, hinted at leaving the team. "It would be sad but I can't allow myself to be treated like that by Williams.

In a later interview he refuted those reports, saying that what he said had been taken out of context and "everything else will just work itself out, I'm sure."


The ramifications of Schumacher’s departure have been exaggerated by team-mate Juan-Pablo Montoya’s decision to swop his Williams-BMW overalls for a McLaren-Mercedes uniform next season.


“Sooner or later, (Jaguar Racing driver) Mark Webber will drive a winning Formula One car,” his manager, Briatore, said. Briatore has the young Australian under contract and may draft him into the Renault team for seasons 2006 or 2007.


Following Weber’s revelation, Webber, 27, is also linked with a switch to BMW-Williams, as is BAR Honda star Jenson Button, who started his F1 career with the Grove team in 2000.


“At the moment Webber stays with Jaguar,” Briatore said in Melbourne at the weekend. “Right now he just has to keep a foot in the door and we'll see at the end of the season.”

Original article from Car