Michael Schumacher is expected to announce in September whether he will retire or stay in F1 after 2004, but meanwhile the Scuderia is courting Juan-Pablo Montoya to replace the German.

Michael Schumacher is expected to announce in September whether he will retire or stay in F1 after 2004, but meanwhile the Scuderia is courting Juan-Pablo Montoya to replace the German.

As CARtoday.com reported last year, the five-time world champion’s current contract with Ferrari runs until the end of next season. There has been much speculation about whether Schumacher will retire when his contract has run its term - and during the past Monaco Grand Prix weekend, Williams-BMW ace Montoya reportedly had talks with Ferrari about replacing the German for the 2005 season.

Speaking about when Schumacher would make a decision about his future, his manager Willi Weber was quoted as saying: "Maybe it will be by the Italian Grand Prix (September 14) or maybe later. But not much later. If he continues after 2004 it will be with Ferrari, that's for sure."

Weber insisted that Schumacher would stay in F1 for the remainder of his Ferrari contract. "He's under contract for next year, so nothing happens," he said. "We are talking about after 2004.

Meanwhile, Italian newspaper reported that because Ferrari had yet to secure a signature on a contract extension with Schumacher, the Italian team was considering signing another driver - Montoya, if the Scuderia had its wish - for the 2005 season.

Predictably, Monaco Grand Prix winner Montoya denied the rumours. “Someone told me to look at the Gazzetta dello Sport and see what's in it," the Colombian said. "I had a look and I couldn't believe it. There's no talks for the moment, to be honest, there is nothing."

It is not the first time that Montoya has been linked with Ferrari, but any such arrangement hinges on Schumacher's future plans. Even if the Scuderia managed to secure Montoya’s signature, it is hard to believe that Montoya would settle for a subservient role as number two alongside Schumacher at Ferrari.