Williams row gives Davidson hope

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The Independent Online

The razzmatazz and mercilessness of Monaco can cruelly highlight just what a game of musical chairs Formula One can be. Yesterday Anthony Davidson once more drove his heart out as BAR Honda's Friday test driver, and only one man went faster - a multiple world champion called Schumacher. Yet teams are scarcely beating a path to the diminutive Englishman's door. "I haven't had any offers - yet," he confided in Barcelona recently.

This is a remarkable situation when you consider that Ralf Schumacher, who has been outqualified at every race this season by BMW Williams team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya and has yet to do better than fourth place in Australia, is purportedly being chased by Toyota who are said to be offering $12m (£6.73m) annually on a three-year contract.

Schumacher Jnr is clearly uncomfortable at Williams and looking to decamp, as is Montoya who will replace David Coulthard at McLaren in 2005. Schumacher's increasing frustration spilled over on Wednesday as he attacked team technical director Patrick Head in response to comments that Head made privately in Spain at the previous race. "Sometimes he [Head] just goes off a bit or doesn't think about what he's saying, or he's very emotional about things," Schumacher said. "It's not the first time it happened to me within Williams. Obviously we are all under pressure, we all want to deliver, and because of it sometimes things go a bit wrong.

"I think Patrick is sometimes looking for something that happened 20 years ago. It really depends on whatever he feels on the day. He's a very motivated guy, still tries everything to give us a winning car and believe it or not I enjoy working with him. Ninety per cent of the time we get on well."

Head defended his comments yesterday. "It was a private conversation during an evening in Barcelona with four British journalists. It was off the record and the subject was why Ralf was being outqualified by his team-mate. We have had drivers before who have had big accidents - Nelson Piquet after a tyre explosion at Imola in 1987 and Thierry Boutsen there in 1990 - and after being concussed both said afterwards that it took them six to nine months to recover fully. In conversation, a private conversation, I speculated that Ralf's accident in testing at Monza last year, which was of our making because of a suspension failure, had maybe had some input. It shows that talking off the record is unwise." Head also had a good word for Davidson.

"There is no doubt he is a fine driver, though I haven't had the opportunity to work with him. Our test drivers can also produce lap times to exactly the same level as our race drivers, sometimes better. But Anthony deserves consideration."

As Toyota are still considering the wisdom of a multi-million deal with Schumacher Jnr, it may not be too late for Davidson's management to open a meaningful dialogue with the Japanese team. Perhaps even with Williams...