Christian Klien insists that his chances of returning to the grand prix grid in F1 2010 have not been altogether dashed by Sauber's decision to take a punt on long-time McLaren-Mercedes test driver Pedro de la Rosa rather than the man who has acted as its own test driver since the beginning of 2008.
Klien had been one of a number of names – alongside de la Rosa, Russian GP2 Series runner-up Vitaly Petrov and former Sauber aces Giancarlo Fisichella and Nick Heidfeld – to be strongly linked with the hitherto vacant cockpit alongside star 2009 debutant Kamui Kobayashi at Hinwil this season, but ultimately he was passed over for the drive in favour of the veteran Spaniard [see separate story – click here
Nonetheless, with openings still remaining at Renault, Scuderia Toro Rosso and F1 2010 newcomers Campos Meta 1 and USF1, the 26-year-old argues that he is not out of the game just yet and is indeed to the contrary engrossed in 'serious negotiations' with two teams, as he bids to re-launch his stalled career that saw him last make a grand prix start for Red Bull Racing in Italy in late 2006.
“At the end of the day, the driver decision is up to the management and they have to take all factors into consideration,” he mused of his Sauber snub, writing on his personal website. “I was well aware that my main rival for the seat was Pedro de la Rosa. In my view, the fact that the decision was taken so late shows that it was not an easy one for (team principal and founder) Peter Sauber.
“There are still a few seats up for grabs, and I have been approached by several teams throughout the 2009 season. With two of those teams I am currently in serious negotiations.”
One of those potential suitors is believed to be Renault – under new management now following the Enstone-based outfit's 75 per cent majority sale to Luxembourg investment firm Genii Capital, and inarguably the most attractive of the last available options for 2010. Should he not be successful in his aim of re-starting his 46-race F1 career, though, Klien did confess that he would consider as a fallback alternative a fourth consecutive campaign in the testing and reserve ranks.
“The clear goal is to race,” the Austrian underlined. “My goal is to be racing in F1 this season, and I still have every chance to achieve that. A few teams are under new ownership, which results in new management and new strategic emphasis here and there. In those teams, decisions will take a little longer with new people in-place and a whole new framework.
“Theoretically, the decision about drivers can be made right before the first race in Bahrain in March, but common sense tells us that it makes sense to have your line-up ready before you go testing, which will be at the beginning of February or mid-February depending on the teams.
“With all the test restrictions, the job of a test pilot is not as attractive as it was some time ago. Still, you have to weigh this option carefully – and last season, no fewer than five reserve drivers were called upon in ten teams to replace a racing driver, so statistically the job makes sense. Still, my plan is to go racing – that is top of the list – and I still see a fair chance to be on the grid in 2010.”
Klien's most recent racing activities have been in sportscars with Peugeot, finishing a heavily delayed sixth outright for the French manufacturer in the 77th running of the iconic round-the-clock Le Mans 24 Hours last summer. At his maiden appearance in 2008, he had taken the chequered flag third.