By Ewan Marshall
Heikki Kovalainen’s future with McLaren remains in his own hands, according to team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
The Finn, in his second year with the Woking team, has struggled to match the pace of Lewis Hamilton this season.
While Hamilton claimed the team’s first victory of the season in Hungary, Kovalainen’s best result has been fifth place, and that has sparked debate about his long-term future with the team.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has moved to quash speculation that Kovalainen has been dropped from the team next year saying that they are currently not negotiating with any drivers and that Kovalainen still has every opportunity to remain put in 2010.
“Heikki is doing, as a team player, a fantastic job in this team,” Formula1.net heard Whitmarsh explain during today’s Vodafone Mclaren-Mercedes ‘phone-in’, “On his own evaluation, he hasn’t raced as well as he would have liked and we would have liked him too this year.”
“We are not in active discussion with any other drivers at the moment. But it is true to say that we haven’t confirmed our driver line-up for next year. A lot of us want to see Heikki get good results this year and that will ensure that he remains with us.”
Whitmarsh also claimed that Kovalainen’s chances would be considerably improved if he can capitalize on the team’s recent return to form, starting this weekend in Valencia.
“His goal going into Valencia this weekend is to win.” Whitmarsh added, “We believe he is capable of winning the race this weekendâ€¦ He is capable of qualifying well and winning this race. So that is what he’s going to focus on.”
Rumours have also circulated that Mercedes, would wish to see a German driver alongside Hamilton next season, with both Nico Rosberg and Adrian Sutil being mentioned as able replacements for Kovalainen. Nevertheless, Whitmarsh reassured those present at the ‘Phone-in’ that Mclaren do not practice a nationality policy when selecting driver line-ups.
“In terms of nationality, obviously some nationalities have , from a marketing perspective, are more convenient.” said Whitmarsh.
“But McLaren continues to have the strategy and policy that we will get the two best drivers in our cars every season, and that is what we will continue to do”