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Kovalainen seat in doubt as Haug hints Finn was third choice

He may have achieved his best qualifying result of the 2009 F1 campaign to-date at the Nürburgring 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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July 12, 2009 9:15 PM

Good one Haug - he was your best driver this weekend. Look at qualifying. For all the fancy aero parts on the other car, he was pretty close with more fuel. I think given a team which is not focused on one driver or where he is the number one driver, I think he would be formidable.

sokudo - Unregistered

July 12, 2009 3:34 PM

can't say he's doing that badly this season. he may have only finished a few races but his finishes-points ration is probably better than hamiltons. hamilton 9ts, kovi 5pts. it's not exactly a huge deficit. bet you that kovalainen will find a way to beat hamilton in the championship.

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