Ralf Schumacher 'would be the perfect driver' for Stefan GP in F1 2010, Bernie Ecclestone has opined – as the sport's commercial rights-holder gave his clearest statement to-date that he does not believe USF1 and Campos Meta 1 will make the starting grid.
Despite the fact that it has yet to receive an official entry for the forthcoming season, Stefan GP – owned by Serbian businessman Zoran Stefanovic – has purchased the ready-designed Toyota TF110 chassis' and the Japanese manufacturer's defunct Cologne facilities as it prepares to join the fray, and will ostensibly benefit from technical support from Toyota Motorsport GmbH.
As a signal of intent, the team announced earlier this week that it will travel to the Portimão circuit in Portugal to test with two drivers for three days at the end of February [see separate story – click here
], and it has already shipped a container of equipment to Bahrain for the curtain-raising 2010 grand prix at Sakhir. The Stefan S-01 – a rebadged TF110 – successfully passed internal crash tests late last year.
Schumacher, of course, has a history with Toyota, which was the last outfit he raced for in F1 prior to being released at the end of 2007, the least competitive of his eleven campaigns in the top flight as the German notched up a mere five points.
Since then, the younger brother of record-breaking multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher has competed with limited success in pan-European touring car series the DTM, but recently the 34-year-old – out of contract in 2010 – has made noises about being interested in similarly following his elder sibling back onto the grand prix grid. Ecclestone reckons the six-time race-winner should be given the opportunity to do just that.
“I do not believe in the participation of USF1 and Campos,” the 79-year-old Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive told German magazine Sport Bild
. “Instead, I have good contacts with Stefan GP and would like to give this team a good starting point. Ralf Schumacher would be the perfect driver for them; he knows the team and he has experience.”
The common school of thought is that Stefan GP is likely to take over the slot currently held by the financially-troubled Campos operation, which already has former GP2 Series runner-up Bruno Senna on its books – and the Brazilian could well remain as part of the package. There are also strong rumours that Williams F1 refugee and long-time Toyota protégé Kazuki Nakajima has been all-but guaranteed a drive as part of the deal between Toyota and Stefan GP, so what room that would leave for Schumacher remains unclear. The man himself, though, insists it is all pure speculation.
“I'm a DTM driver – anything else is news to me,” he asserted to German website motorsport-total.com
, adding that Ecclestone's comments were 'well-meant' but no more than that.