Nico Hulkenberg has turned down the chance to join Lotus for the final two races of the 2013 season as a replacement for the injured Kimi Raikkonen - with Heikki Kovalainen now looking like the man most likely to earn the drive.
Raikkonen will miss the United States and Brazilian Grands Prix in order to undergo surgery on a back injury, leaving Lotus to find a substitute who can step in for the final two races of the campaign.
Having been linked with the team for next year when Raikkonen leaves for Ferrari, Hulkenberg had been mentioned one option although Sauber was quick to deny that the highly-rated German would make the switch.
However, the 26-year-old's manager has now revealed that an offer was made by the Enstone-based team but that Hulkenberg had elected to see out the campaign with his current outfit.
“We had an offer from Lotus and we talked about it,” he told Bild
. “We decided that Nico would drive the last two races with Sauber.”
Lotus test driver, and Crash.net
columnist, Davide Valsecchi had looked set to therefore earn the chance to race in F1 for the first time, although he now seems set to be overlooked by the team in favour of current Caterham reserve Kovalainen.
With the team eager to bring in a driver who can score valuable championship points, Kovalainen is set to be given the chance to return to a race seat for the first time since the 2012 season finale.
Finnish broadcaster MTV
reports that a deal has been done that will see Kovalainen return to Enstone alongside Romain Grosjean with the former McLaren racer being able to bring experience of the current Pirelli tyres from his Friday outings this season and previous experience of the two venues still to be visited this season.
As yet, Lotus has yet to comment on who will replace Raikkonen, with suggestions that an announcement could be made on Thursday.