Ralf Schumacher's chances of remaining a part of the Formula One family appear to hang on a last chance drive with the recently-renamed Force India F1 team, despite his name not being included among the list of five set to test with the squad next week.

Axed by Toyota at the end of the 2007 campaign, the lacklustre brother of seven-time world champion Michael insists that he will be involved for at least one more season but, with doors - if not already closed - appearing to swing shut as the fall-out from Fernando Alonso's destiny unravels, the options are narrowing.

However, according to Germany's Die Welt newspaper, Schumacher could be in line for a shoot-out with fellow veteran - and, ironically, former Jordan team-mate - Giancarlo Fisichella for one of the two seats at Force India. That claim, however, appears at odds with the team's own announcement that it will test five young chargers at next week's Barcelona group session.

Current incumbent Adrian Sutil, test pilots Giedo van der Garde and Roldan Rodriguez, as well as Red Bull refugees Vitantonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien, are all slated to test the former Spyker F8-VIIB at the Circuit de Catalunya, but Die Welt claims that Schumacher and Fisichella could go head-to-head at a later test to determine which, if either, gets an F1 lifeline for 2008. Spain's as.com also added Jarno Trulli's name to the mix, but admits that that possibility is less likely now that Alonso appears to have turned his back on Toyota for 2008.

How likely Schumacher is to find favour within the Silverstone-based squad remains to be seen, however, with chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne apparently opposed to the German's involvement after a torrid working relationship at Toyota prior to the Briton's untimely departure from Cologne.

Equally, Fisichella, while bringing experience to the squad, may well be overlooked in favour of youth as new owner Vijay Mallya looks to the future. Klien is already well-known to the team, having tested the Spyker at Spa last season, and Mallya is reportedly keen to keep Sutil in the face of offers from bigger teams, notably McLaren.

Should the German leave, however, the ever-eager Spanish media is still tipping Rodriguez to get a race seat, with Liuzzi their favourite to partner the GP2 campaigner.

 

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