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McLaren ‘not talking to any other drivers’
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McLaren ‘not talking to any other drivers’
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Aug 2009   |  10:15 am GMT  |  17 comments

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said this morning in Valencia that he is not in discussions with any drivers regarding the seat currently occupied by Heikki Kovalainen. He also talked openly about Fernando Alonso’s expected move to Ferrari and its effect on the driver market.

The Finn admitted yesterday that his performances have been disappointing this season, particularly in races and that he has had talks with the team about how he can get more from himself and the car. He has put extra hours in on the simulator ahead of this weekend. Meanwhile Nico Rosberg openly discussed the possibility of a move to McLaren in his press briefing. It is also known that Mercedes would dearly love a German driver in the car, which has not happened in the company’s 250 Grand Prix history with McLaren.

But Whitmarsh said on Radio 5 Live this morning, “Heikki is a team player and he’s very popular in the team. He’s done some great qualifying, but we know and he knows that he has got to be more consistent with his race performances in long runs. We want him to be successful in this team. At the moment we are not in any conversations with drivers, but we will see in the future. It’s clear that the Fernando Alonso, Ferrari move will have a knock on effect on and the BMW move will also have an impact. Heikki is pushing hard, he’s not performed as well as he and we had hoped in races.”

The message is very clear for Kovalainen; he has had a lot of support and Whitmarsh has personally invested a lot in the driver, giving him every chance to be successful.

But it is expected that this season will see the biggest movement of drivers in the market for many years and Kovalainen will have to be careful. Racing alongside Hamilton is tough and Lewis has clearly done Kovalainen’s head in; in many ways a move away from McLaren would be the best thing for Kovalainen’s career, as staying put would involve continuing to bang his head against the same wall.

The feeling in the paddock is that Kovalainen is better than he is being made to look at the moment. He needs to showcase his abilities and make the right next move for his career.

This morning in Valencia he has been trying a very intricate new front wing as McLaren continue to chase performance with a range of development parts.

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17 Comments
  1. Nicollers says:

    Whitmarsh: “we all know that Fernando Alonso’s move to Ferrari will have a ripple effect on other teams. It opens up the driver market. We are not in talks with any other drivers at the moment, but are obliged to have the most competitive cars and drivers that we can”.

    I see two options here (naturally). Ferrari will drop Raikkonen for not scoring enough points or Massa for being not fit to race following his accident.

    So where would Massa or Kimi go after Ferrari. Logic states McLaren. But would Kimi return to them? Could Red Bull shunt Webber out? And what about Brawn? Would Rubens make way for either of the Ferrari drivers?

    James, do you know how long the “usual suspect” have left on their contracts? If so, what’s your opinion on who would go where?

    Personally I think Whitmarsh has his eye on Kimi!

    1. Cliff says:

      KImi to Mclaren, not in this lifetime…there’s just too much work to do (PR) in between race weekends for his liking. Kimi just about gets through a race weekend. What you have in Kimi is a one of the quickest drivers on the circuit, but one whose only wish is to drive the car. I think the fact that he parted company with Chris Dyer during the Ferrari reshuffle was also telling. Dyer mananged to form a level of trust with Michael Schumacher that produced results, I suspect that Kimi may have been able to keep Dyer had he so wished. The interests of the team, especiallly at Mclaren, are of no concern to him. At Ferrari Kimi is allowed to do his own thing, such as WRC, can you see Mclaren granting permission for such activities? Personally, I would just love see Kimi at his best, when he is on his game even Lewis and Fernado have to take notice.

  2. LynnD says:

    “Lewis has clearly done Kovalainen’s head in” – what a lovely turn of phrase James!

    I think that Heikki’s future depends on what the philosophy is. The lad is clearly not Lewis, but there only seem to be four or five top-class drivers at most on any given grid. So it’s a question of what the thinking is on how to fill the rest of the available seats… Once the cream of the field is committed, do the teams incline towards constantly bringing new talent up from the lower formulae in the hope of finding the next Hamilton or Vettel, or do they put Heikki, a (relatively) safe and experienced pair of hands into their car?

    There is a group of drivers that I think of as the “journeymen” – Trulli, Fisi, Barichello, Heikki – who have had top drives and WDC/WCC-winning kit without making the most of it, but have not been disgraced. They’ve had their big shot and missed. The testing ban means that these drivers are getting seats that, pre-ban, might have gone to younger drivers who had shown well in testing.

    Personally I like Heikki a great deal, but I think your opinion may be coloured a bit by his likeability James. He’s had his shot, and even the win he had last year needed two people to drop out ahead of him.

    This testing ban is terribly unfair on younger drivers and the whole situation should have been rejigged in the 2010 regulations.

    Just my €0.02.

    1. Werewolf says:

      F1 should be about the best drivers. Very few can be great but being among the best is about so much more than the mandatory talent: experience, preparation, communication, professionalisn, teamwork, technical feedback, psychological strength, political acumen and a myriad of other qualities come into play in the modern world.

      While developing fresh talent is vital, I often feel those drivers just below the very top are the backbone of the sport. Without them, F1 would be merely a faster, more expensive junior category supplemented by two or three outstanding talents.

  3. Werewolf says:

    Heikki Kovalainen is one of those drivers you cannot help but want to do well and I have few doubts that he has considerable speed. The problem seems to be how to tap into it consistently. His psychological strength, I think, has to be questioned, however. At Renault, he was apparently somewhat browbeaten by Briatore, which could be considered standard if you are not Michael Schumacher or Fernando Alonso (or Giancarlo Fisichela?); and now, it seems, Lewis Hamilton is doing his head in. It will be interesting to see how Kovalainen impresses now the McLaren is competitive again (2nd in first practice is a good start), as he does not have Hamilton’s ability to monster a bad car.

    On driver moves more broadly, it’s going to be the most fascinating off-season in years! I suspect things will take a while to pan out, not just because the whole thing is largely hinged on Alonso but also because Felipe Massa’s situation will unfortunately not become clear for some time. With so many new seats and a couple of anticipated exits, experience will be sought after.

    James, as Nicollers suggests, how about doing a post on potential destinations? Informed conjecture is always good to read.

    1. James Allen says:

      I’m working on it, but there’s no point in doing something half-cocked. It’s a complex picture this year

  4. Red Kimi says:

    oh my Lord… more Fernando to Ferrari rumors…. Please let it be 2011 so Kimi can have a shot at a real car next year and so I can laugh at the press and thier constant Kimi bashing!

  5. Robert McKay says:

    It’s interesting that Whitmarsh is so openly talking about Alonso to Ferrari. I wonder what Ferrari think of everyone else talking about what looks like an open secret.

  6. teamworkf1 says:

    Heikki is another DC!! You love the guy but can’t give you more!!

  7. Amritraj says:

    Hi James,

    I would love to see FA in a Ferrari. However, there is nothing from the Ferrari camp that suggests they are awaiting FA’s arrival.

    Yes, we have a very respectable figure in Martin suggesting that FA might be headed to Ferrari. But couldn’t this a tactic to apply psychological pressure on FA at his home grand prix. Just to square off, for old times’ sake.

    Becuase everyone knows FA wants to be in a Ferrari and such suggestions only heighten the anticipation of the crowd, which may exert more pressure on Fernando.

  8. Tony says:

    Surely with FIAT entering WRC and Kimi’s interest that makes it obvious? Kimi to WRC and Fernando to Ferrari?

  9. C.M. says:

    I must agree with Red Kimi here. I’m little fed up already with all these Fernando to Ferrari rumours. Maybe cause I’m a fan of Fernando but dislike Ferrari? :P

    In finnish media I read Kimi commenting on these rumours that he has a contract for next year and he gonna respect that. That anything may happen but that’s not up to him but Ferrari.

    I am thinking that Ferrari will not pay for Kimi, to end his contract, there’s no reason for that. Kimi ain’t slower than Alonso, so why waste so much money for nothing? Some say he gonna drive rally with Fiat S2000, well 1 thing for sure, he would be highest paid rallydriver ever! I see it all happening but not next year, so I’m also one of the few who don’t believe it, but with F1 You never know.

    1. Phil says:

      Maybe the Santander sponsorship deal has an Alonso requirement clause – the money from that may be more than it would cost to buy Kimi out.

  10. Patrickl says:

    Maybe Whitmarsh hasn’t talked with other drivers yet. Haug was pretty clear about the fact that HE was talking with Rosberg.

    If they don’t get Rosberg, I really hope they manage to get Kimi back.

    Kovalainen should go back to Renault to drive alongside Kubica or something. Or maybe he could drive for Williams.

  11. bonnie b says:

    James,
    Mclaren needs Rosberg in 2010 because Fernando
    will be with Ferrari and they need a strong
    number 2 or 1-a driver. Stay away from any
    thing Britore has for drivers (Alonso-Kovalainen) Norbert Haug wants Nico they should
    go in that direction and push Lewis to the
    brink because Lewis goes brain dead during
    qualifying and Nico will pass him up. Think
    about the marketing possibilty with these two
    Martin put you stamp on this team. Norbert is
    on the money with this pick. Go Mclaren Mercedes.

  12. Martin Collyer says:

    If Martin Whitmarsh REALLY has not spoken to any other drivers yet, it’s about time he did!

    It’s pretty clear, after a season and a half, that Kovalainen cannot do full justice to a McLaren. Now, I’m not goiong to suggest that McLaren should follow the Renault/Toro Rosso example and drop Heikki mid-season but surely they need a plan B in case he cannot find the required form in the remainder of this season.

  13. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

    Here’s a little conjecture….

    Why would Whitmarsh be commenting so authoritatively on a topic involving another team?

    Could it be perhaps because he’s trying to bring on someone from said team on board and would thus have an informed insight into what’s going on?

    Furthermore, it was mentioned during the Speed TV broadcast of the Hungarian GP weekend that there were rumors in the paddock of Raikkonen returning to McLaren. Add to this the fact that Whitmarsh backed him up recently when Coulthard had a go at him…

    Furthermore, a Hamilton-Raikkonen pairing, in addition to being arguably the greatest driver pairing in the history of F1, would probably work quite well. Hamilton’s best year so far has been with an elite teammate, a situation he seemed to relish. Raikkonen did work well with the people at McLaren despite perhaps not liking the lifestyle of a McLaren driver very much, and he’s never had an issue with a teammate. I can’t see the two having any problems personality-wise, as each seem to be very focused on their own games and not so much that of anyone else’s.

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