F1: Kovalainen still in the dark about 2008

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, November 16th, 2007

 
 

Who on earth does McLaren have in mind to partner Lewis Hamilton in its second car next year?

We ask this because Renault’s ace Finn Heikki Kovalainen has said that he still has no idea what he’ll be doing for the 2008 Formula One season.

Kovalainen had been widely tipped to replace Fernando Alonso at McLaren, so much so that many bookmakers had him on shortish odds as an overall World Championship winner.

But now, rather than talking up his chances of a top drive, he has told Autosport that he is still none the wiser about his future.

With Giancarlo Fisichella almost certainly on his way out of the Renault door, this would seem to indicate that the team has Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr at the top of its wish-list for next season.

But what has come between Kovalainen and a McLaren drive? Could Renault have refused to release him to the team that has embroiled it in an espionage row that threatens to top its own alleged misuse of Ferrari data this summer?

Kovalainen said: “I am not confirmed [at Renault]. I do not have contracts with anyone, and I have different options. I think Renault potentially is a strong team, I hope I can stay but we will see, as there are other options which are interesting.

“You just don’t know who is going to be strong next year. It could be anyone, that is why it takes a bit of time.

“I think I am in a very good position with the team. They know me and they know the potential from this season. I can do a good job for the team but obviously Fernando is still a free agent, I believe.”

He said that any team would be keen to sign the double world champion who only narrowly missed out on his hat-trick of titles this year. And he added that he believed Renault was trying to recruit the Spaniard.

“We need to see whether I drive the other car or it’s someone else. You know we have not decided yet, so we really don’t know.”

It’s possible that today’s curiously-delayed decision in the ‘cool fuel’ row (4.30pm, one day late, and still no sign of it) could help to unlock things and concentrate the Woking team’s mind on the future.

But Renault still face a potentially hugely troublesome inquiry into its possession of McLaren team data, one that potentially undermines its future in F1 – an event that could hold up the decision for weeks yet.

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