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McLaren confirm Kovalainen will be retained.

McLaren-Mercedes has drawn a line under speculation swirling around the future of Heikki Kovalainen, by confirming that it has taken up its option on the Finn's contract for 2009.

There had been whispers – started by Michael Schumacher's manager Willi Weber, now looking after the interests of Williams test driver Nico Hülkenberg – that Kovalainen's seat could be under threat from Nico Rosberg, who McLaren is known to rate highly and who was on top of the team's shopping list to replace two-time world champion Fernando Alonso following the Spaniard's premature departure from the fold at the end of the 2007 Formula 1 season.

Though Kovalainen has displayed encouraging speed in 2008 – only his second campaign in the top flight – particularly in qualifying, he has been dogged by bad luck and a lack of race pace in comparison to world championship-leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton, seeing him notch up just 28 points so far to the Briton's 58.

Former triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart has claimed that the Woking-based outfit needs Kovalainen to start scoring bigger points if he is to not only help the squad towards the constructors' laurels, but also boost Hamilton's title bid [see separate story – click here].

McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh, however, insists that, despite the relative dearth of solid results – the highlights being pole position at Silverstone and a rostrum finish in Malaysia – the 26-year-old from Suomussalmi has been nothing but good for the team, which is rebuilding stability following the distinctly turbulent Alonso period.

“He is a brilliant young racing driver,” Whitmarsh is quoted as having said by the BBC, “but there's no magic in Formula 1, and we still need to work with Heikki to extract his full potential.

“We welcomed Heikki on-board at the start of the year. He is under contract to McLaren-Mercedes and will race for us in the 2009 season.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton's Mercedes-Benz engine has been given the all-clear to be used for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, after becoming the first powerplant to be inspected by the sport's governing body, the FIA, as part of a process to ensure that all manufacturers are complying fully with the current so-called 'freeze' on engine development.

The German Grand Prix winner's V8 was inspected following Hamilton's Hockenheim triumph, and passed a routine and thorough inspection at the Hungaroring, the FIA confirmed.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren MP4-23, Spanish F1 Grand Prix, Catalunya, 25th-27th, April, 2008
Antonio Giovinazzi - Sauber F1 Team
McLaren - Honda MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32 F1 launch, [Credit: McLaren]
McLaren MCL32, McLaren-Honda, [Credit: McLaren]
Fernando Alonso - McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren Honda MCL32
Ferrari SF70H
Ferrari SF70H
The Ferrari SF70H - Scuderia Ferrari
Ferrari SF70H, Ferrari launch [Credit: Ferrari]
Ferrari SF70H, Ferrari launch [Credit: Ferrari]
Ferrari SF70H

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rich ard

July 31, 2008 4:53 PM

sherrie, are you on the wrong thread here. ferrari engine will be inspected when the unit is RANDOMLY picked. actual thread is about kovi who deserves to be with a strong team and treated as an equal. he is WdC material but needs full support to achieve this

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