Struggling Schumacher confident about his future

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TOKYO, Sep 25 (Reuters) A dismal 2007 season has done little to dampen Ralf Schumacher's hopes of getting behind the wheel of a Formula One title contender again.

''To call it a tough year is a very nice description of it,'' the disgruntled Toyota driver told Reuters today.

''I just want to finish off the season. It's true I have been talking to other teams.

''I won't be more specific than that -- right now I want to get the last few races over with.'' The German, whose contract expires at the end of 2007, has endured a nightmare year in which neither he nor his Italian team mate Jarno Trulli have finished a race higher than sixth.

''When I joined Toyota I knew it was a very big task but it has not developed the way we expected,'' said Schumacher, who won six races with Williams before joining Toyota in 2005.

''To be honest, things just haven't happened. We expected points and podiums but we didn't make it. Still, the possibility is there and anything can change in Formula One.'' GREATER PRESSURE Toyota, still without a race victory since joining Formula One in 2002, will be under even greater pressure to score their first podium finish of the season this weekend at the Japanese car giant's Fuji Speedway circuit.

''The expectations are high again,'' he said. ''We just have to hope for a good weekend.'' Toyota have spent well over a billion dollars in Formula One but took a step backwards last season when they finished sixth in championship with just 35 points.

It was a major setback for the team after an impressive showing in 2005 when they were fourth with 88 points.

The team's fortunes have plummeted in 2007 with only 12 points scored in the constructors' standings and just three races remaining.

Schumacher, younger brother of seven-times world champion Michael, insists his struggles will not prevent him from joining a top team.

''It doesn't make life easier,'' said the 32-year-old.

''But I've been in the sport a long time and people know me. I'm still pretty good at it, so it's not a problem.'' Asked if he is confident of securing a ride with a championship contender in 2008, he smiled, and said: ''Oh yeah, very. It won't be too difficult.'' REUTERS TB ND1536

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