Ralf's exit makes no difference, say Toyota

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SHANGHAI, Oct 2 (Reuters) Ralf Schumacher's announcement that he is leaving Toyota makes no difference to the team's plans for 2008, motorsport president John Howett said today.

''We accept Ralf's decision and we wish him the best for the future,'' he said in a statement a day after the German said he would leave the Cologne-based Formula One team at the end of the season.

''Fundamentally, this does not change Toyota's position; right now we are still looking at the drivers' market situation.

''This just means that Ralf is not part of our list of candidates any more,'' added Howett, whose team are preparing for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

Jarno Trulli will stay at Toyota next season while Germany's Timo Glock, the BMW test driver and newly crowned GP2 champion, has been mentioned as a leading candidate to partner the Italian.

However Toyota are unlikely to name a replacement for Schumacher until it is clear whether double world champion Fernando Alonso is staying at McLaren or not.

If Alonso, who has a contract with McLaren but no longer sees eye to eye with team bosses, leaves then it is likely to trigger a general merry-go-round in the driver market.

Schumacher, winner of six races for Williams and Germany's second most successful Formula One driver after his now retired older brother and seven times world champion Michael, did not say what he intended to do next.

REUTERS SSC MIR RAI2121

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