Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve has admitted that it has been 'very flattering' to have been linked publicly with F1 2010 newcomer Lotus - even if he insists that any discussions remain 'only preliminary'.

Lotus F1 chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne has revealed that the Malaysian-backed, Norfolk-based outfit is ideally seeking two experienced hands to help guide the team through what will be its maiden season in the top flight - and it has been assumed for a while that Toyota refugee Jarno Trulli, who worked closely with the Englishman at Jordan, Renault and Toyota between 2000 and 2006, is practically a shoe-in to occupy one of the cockpits.

The team is aiming to have two drivers signed up by the end of November, and Gascoyne has confirmed that talks were held with both Villeneuve - who defeated the record-breaking Michael Schumacher for title glory with Williams twelve years ago, but left F1 with his tail between his legs mid-2006 following a fall-out with BMW-Sauber - and BMW test driver and former Red Bull Racing ace Christian Klien in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

"It's very flattering to know that he said publicly that we have spoken," 38-year-old Qu?bec native Villeneuve told France's Rue Frontenac of Gascoyne's comments. "The discussions are still only preliminary, and we're not yet at the stage to talk about the details of a possible association."

Since exiting F1, the eleven-time grand prix-winner has competed for Peugeot in sportscars - including a brace of appearances in the iconic round-the-clock Le Mans 24 Hours - and in NASCAR circles. Prior to the speculation linking him with Lotus, the son of legendary Ferrari hero Gilles Villeneuve had been mooted as a possible USF1 driver in 2010.

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