Toyota F1 team president John Howett has said that Ralf Schumacher's decision to leave the team at the end of the season will have little effect on its choice of line-up for 2008.

Although acknowledging that the German was a candidate for one of the two seats at the Cologne operation, Howett did not appear to distraught at his decision to remove himself from the short-list. Much has been made of Schumacher's tenure at Toyota this season, with the 32-year old thought to be under threat of losing his seat as early as the Canadian Grand Prix in June after a series of poor performances. To date, the six-time grand prix winner has failed to finish higher than sixth and has regularly dropped out of qualifying at the first hurdle.

While Jarno Trulli is expected to remain on board for another season, Schumacher's name was on a short-list of potential team-mates thought to include Ferrari's Felipe Massa, new GP2 champion Timo Glock, rising Japanese star Kazuki Nakajima and, most crucially, double world champion Fernando Alonso. Howett insisted that Schumacher's announcement would not change the team's plans for next season, but merely reduced the number of names being considered.

"We accept Ralf's decision and we wish him the best for the future," Howett said in a statement, "Fundamentally, this does not change Toyota's position - right now we are still looking at the drivers' market situation. This just means that Ralf is not part of our list of candidates any more and, as said, we will make an announcement as soon as we are ready to announce our full driver line-up for the 2008 season."

Team principal Tadashi Yamashina was asked about the line-up during last Friday's FIA press conference at the Japanese Grand Prix, but said that he and the team were in no rush to confirm who would pilot the TF108. He did allow, however, that he would not necessarily be swayed by Alonso's situation at Mclaren.

The Spaniard has said publicly that he would not object to remaining at Woking next season - he has two years remaining on his current contract - but paddock opinion insists that he will be looking to move on following the breakdown of relations with team management and team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari and Renault remain the favourites to pick up Alonso's signature for 2008 - assuming that he is not placed on 'gardening leave' by Ron Dennis - with Toyota having to be considered an outsider due to its poor results-to-budget ratio.

Massa's appearance on the Cologne shortlist is a result of his visit to the team's motorhome - complete with manager Nicolas Todt - at Spa, and a factor of rumours that suggest he will be the fall guy at Ferrari should room be made for Alonso to switch from McLaren. Glock, meanwhile, currently operates as test driver for BMW, but has made no secret of his desire to race next season, something that would not be possible with his current employer owing to Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica already being confirmed for 2008.



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