Silly season rumours heat up

With the end of the season looming, the major topic of conversation in the F1 paddock at Indianapolis has turned to the silly season, with rumours that the top team driver line-ups for 2004 may not be as firm as they currently appear.

Silly season rumours heat up

Although Michael Schumacher doesn't seem to be lacking in terms of performance or motivation, there are whispers that he could be under family pressure to retire after Suzuka if he wins a record sixth title. Giancarlo Fisichella, under contact to the Ferrari-supplied Sauber team, can only hope. A transfer would presumably be simple to arrange...

Ferrari would inevitably be interested in Fernando Alonso too, although Flavio Briatore might have trouble convincing Renault that it was a smart move to sell the Spaniard. If it did happen, Briatore probably has an option to retrieve another of his drivers, Mark Webber, from Jaguar, but could even sign Jacques Villeneuve for relatively little money...

Talk of Juan Pablo Montoya moving to McLaren for 2004 instead of 2005 rumbles on. This would entail McLaren having to pay off David Coulthard's 2004 contract, and also having to pay Williams for the final year of Montoya's existing deal.

Rumours are that the Montoya/Williams relationship has not been as strong since a post French GP difference of opinion. What on the surface looks like a no-brainer for Montoya could actually make sense; next year's McLaren should be strong and his retainer would go northwards. And if he's planning to go there for 2005 anyway, why wait? Logic says that any negotiation would be affected by whether Montoya wins the title, so it's likely to run for a while yet.

Conventional wisdom says Williams would target the impressive Webber as a replacement. Nothing to do with the Aussie reminding Frank Williams and Patrick Head of the much admired Alan Jones either...

Webber would obviously be up for the move, and Jaguar would receive a much-needed cash injection that Frank could fund with his Montoya pay-off. Jaguar then signs Coulthard as its number one, who doesn't cost much as he already has his McLaren pay in his pocket.

Does any of it sound feasible? Maybe, but don't lay money down. It is just the silly season after all.

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