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.