Schumacher's £13m wage demand stalls Williams negotiations

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The Independent Online

Ralf Schumacher admits he may leave BMW-Williams at the end of the forthcoming season if his future with the team is not resolved quickly.

Frank Williams wants to keep the German next year, and is already looking for one new driver following Juan Pablo Montoya's decision to join McLaren in 2005.

Williams, though, is baulking at Schumacher's £13m wage demands and has already drawn up a list of potential replacements, which includes Britain's Jenson Button.

And now on the eve of the new season, Schumacher claims he is prepared to sever his ties with the British-based outfit because of their handling of contract negotiations. "Even if me and my manager Willi Weber would find it hard to leave behind our friends at BMW, there's a chance it could happen," Schumacher said. "It would be sad, but I can't allow myself to be treated like that by Williams.

"I'm not frustrated, but I find it hard to understand certain things that have happened these past few months."

Schumacher maintains team boss Williams reneged on the offer of a new deal. He said: "Frank Williams says I'm nothing but a money-grabber. I can only laugh at that. I wanted to sign. We scheduled a meeting for the final race of the season in Japan, but Frank Williams wasn't there and then he suddenly pulled the offer. On a human level I'm very disappointed with him."

Last week, Williams admitted financial issues were still a major stumbling block. "Money is an issue with Ralf," he said. "The ideal situation would be to keep Ralf, but we have agreed to park up the problem for some time.

"There is no rush for us to do something about 2005 and we will look at everybody. We have got a lot of people we can look at."

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