McLaren have today confirmed Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen as Lewis Hamilton’s team mate for their 2008 campaign. Heikki, who was unceremoniously dropped by Renault earlier in the month in favour of partnering Fernando Alonso with Nelson Piquet Jr had been in talks with McLaren for some time, and while the news was expected, was today finally confirmed by the Woking team. Pedro De La Rosa, who was also hopeful of the drive, will remain as reserve driver and Gary Paffett is retained as test driver.
We had a number of options open to us and as always we want to make sure that we have the most competitive driver line-up and I think that Lewis and Heikki will be a formidable combination.
Both enjoyed great rookie seasons in 2007 and share a genuine passion for winning and being the best. Heikki made a strong impression and Lewis’ performance so far has been outstanding and speaks for itself.
I am confident that they will push each other on track and work well together off track. In addition with Pedro remaining our primary test driver alongside Gary, we really have a strong package and look forward to 2008. Martin Whitmarsh.
This news almost finalises the driver placements for next year, with just Force India yet to decide. The announcement of Heikki’s position at Woking will likely mean that Jarno Trulli will remain with Toyota. Although the Italian had a contract, the Japanese team were holding out in case Fernando Alonso or Kovalainen decided to drive for the Cologne-based team. Although if confirmed, his seat for 2009 must surey now be in jeopardy.
I am so excited to join a team like Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. So far I have been blown away by the dedication and commitment to winning which is clear through the entire organisation and I am really excited about our joint future.
As a Finn it’s an honour for me to follow in Mika and Kimi’s footsteps. I haven’t really spent a lot of time with Lewis so far but from what I know I think we will work well together and do our best for the team.
The one thing that has struck me so far is just how professional and dedicated the team is, and I know they will work so hard to give me the best opportunity. Heikki Kovalainen.
McLaren also stated today that they do not intend to hold a launch for the new MP4-23 – the team’s 2008 challenger. Last year, with two new drivers and new sponsors, the Woking-based squad unveiled their car with glitz and glamour in Valenica, shutting down part of the city to allow Alonso to show off the dazzling spectacle to as many people as possible. However, following a difficult year for the team that is yet to be finally closed, McLaren have instead opted for a low key roll-out at a private test in mid-January.
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 is scheduled to commence its on-track testing programme at an exclusive test at the Jerez circuit in Spain during the second week of January 2008.
There are currently no plans for a launch presentation but the team will provide the media with photographs and further details about the car when it runs. McLaren Statement.
Isn’t that what Ferrari did last year?
Image courtesy of McLaren.