German sportscar ace Michael Bartels has criticised McLaren for not hiring a fellow countryman to replace the departing Fernando Alonso, claiming that he is unable to understand Mercedes' policy on driver choice.

With Germany rebuilding its presence in the top flight after the retirement of Michael Schumacher in 2006, Bartels saw Alonso's return to Renault as an ideal opportunity for Mercedes to hire one of the new breed of young guns, and was naturally disappointed to hear that Heikki Kovalainen had effectively swapped seats with the two-time world champion.

"I simply cannot understand why a German car maker does not give German drivers a chance," the 39-year old former Lotus F1 pilot told press agency SID, "BMW has successfully showed that such a policy can work.

"Nico Rosberg could certainly have been bought out of his contract with Williams, and Adrian Sutil would, for me, also have been a suitable candidate. It is a great pity that those in Stuttgart apparently think otherwise."

Having pointed out the good work of the Deutsche Speed Academy - which has helped promote both GP2 champion Timo Glock and Nico Hulkenberg into F1 roles this year - Bartels, who failed to qualify on his four outings with Lotus back in 1991, also suggested that Mercedes should have considered Ralf Schumacher, despite the veteran's lacklustre season with Toyota in 2007.

"The hype around Lewis Hamilton was all well and good, but what would be better is if a Mercedes[-powered car] with a German driver had similar success," he reasoned "I would immediately have taken Ralf, as he is fast and has great experience."

Kovalainen, clearly does not find favour with Bartels, who has gone on to achieve FIA GT success since failing to make the grade in F1, and the German claims that McLaren should have learned its lesson with Kimi Raikkonen.

"The [relationship] with Mika [Hakkinen] was natural fit, brilliant, and had everything," he reflected, "but to believe that that would be the case with every Finn is a large mistake."

 

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