Lotus F1 team boss Tony Fernandes has revealed that four drivers are in the frame to drive for his outfit next season, with former Toyota ace Jarno Trullli one of the favourites to get the nod for 2010.
Fernandes told Reuters
that Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy, who was runner-up in the World Series by Renault this year, was also on the list, however he added that 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve was not in contention - despite rumours to the contrary in recent weeks.
"I hope within the next week or so we will announce the line-up," he added at the Motor Sport Business forum in Monaco.
Meanwhile, Fernandes stated that he no longer has any intention of stepping down as team principal once the 2010 season starts.
"There was a reason for doing it at that time (and saying I would not be the team boss back in September), because I think (AirAsia) shareholders were kind of spooked," he explained. "Now they are beginning to see that this is no different from any other business that I own.
"I will stay on as team principal. I think good leadership is to know when to go, but this is not the right time to go. I don't see myself doing this forever but there is no time now for when I would go.
"I am really the glue that puts it all together and drives it forwards. We know we aren't going to be competing at the front in year one, but it takes time and we'll have a good basis for moving forward.
"Number one we have to be ahead of Branson (and fellow newcomers Virgin Racing in 2010) - otherwise I will retire and kill myself!"
Asked if F1 is in crisis following the exits of Honda, BMW and Toyota, he insisted that he didn't think the sport is in trouble.
"I don't think F1 is all about the manufacturers. In fact, some manufacturers were created from F1 and I think there will be times when there are no manufacturers and when there are manufacturers," he summed-up.