Kimi Raikkonen, rather than Sergio Perez, could have been lining up alongside Jenson Button this season, team boss Martin Whitmarsh has revealed.

With the Finn out of contract at Lotus at the end of 2013, Whitmarsh was asked whether he would consider pursuing him to bolster the line-up ahead of next season, only to admit that the 2007 world champion had already been a target for the Woking squad.

Although both Button and Perez appear to be locked into contracts for next year - despite speculation at the Belgian Grand Prix linking the Briton to a possible move elsewhere - Whitmarsh makes no secret of his admiration for Raikkonen, who drove for McLaren between 2002-06 and concedes that he would still be a target should the team have a vacancy to fill.

"Kimi has always been great and I am a big fan of him," he admitted to the official F1 website, "Last year, we had talks with him but, for various reasons, it didn't happen. This year, we've had no talks - yet. There is a lot of speculation out there at the moment, so let's see what happens...."

According to Whitmarsh, Raikkonen appears intent on leaving Lotus and, having been linked to both Red Bull and Ferrari in recent weeks, sees no reason why McLaren should be dismissed as a potential destination for the Finn, even it, ultimately, he believes he will stay at Enstone for another year.

"Kimi is determined to go somewhere else and I sense that he will not succeed in that goal," he said, before admitting that having two world champions in his line-up would be good for publicity in what could be a tough 2014 campaign, "We'll see. We are not talking to Kimi at the moment, so let's see what happens in the drivers' market...."

Such speculation would suggest that Perez, despite having another year to run on his current deal, is on the 'hot seat', but Whitmarsh is quick to defend the Mexican.

"Bear in mind that 'Checo' is still very young," he stressed, "We haven't given our drivers the car we should have done this year, but they've been fantastic ambassadors and I think they deserve another go with us next year. If we give them a car that is good enough they both can win - we know that."



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