He may have achieved his best qualifying result of the 2009 F1 campaign to-date at the N?rburgring this weekend, but that kind of form may be too little, too late to save Heikki Kovalainen's seat at McLaren-Mercedes in 2010, it would appear.

The Finn's performance drew warm words of praise from the Woking-based concern's team principal Martin Whitmarsh in making it both MP4-24s on the third row of the starting grid for the German Grand Prix, despite not benefitting from the same full aerodynamic upgrade package as was fitted to team-mate Lewis Hamilton's car.

However, since joining the multiple world championship-winning outfit back at the beginning of last year, Kovalainen has rarely threatened the Briton's team leader status, with but a single pole position and victory to his name over that period and having generally been shaded by the 2008 title-winner - some argue as a consequence of invariably being sent out in the decisive phase of qualifying with more fuel aboard his car.

Now, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug has confessed that the 27-year-old was not necessarily the team's first choice, admitting that McLaren held discussions with Red Bull Racing star Sebastian Vettel and Williams ace Nico Rosberg before sealing the deal with the man from Suomussalmi.

"Before we signed Heikki we spoke with both," the German told Die Welt, "but they had contracts that we of course respected. For the future I don't want to exclude anything."

Meanwhile, Haug insisted that despite speculation to the contrary, the Stuttgart manufacturer currently has no intention of taking over McLaren entirely, contending instead that 'efficiency and cost-saving' are of the utmost importance in the present global climate. Mercedes presently controls 40 per cent of the squad, with the rest owned by the Kingdom of Bahrain (30 per cent), erstwhile team principal Ron Dennis (15per cent) and Mansour Ojjeh (15 per cent).

"That is definitely an option," the 56-year-old conceded, "but not in the economic situation of the moment."

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