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Kovalainen to partner Hamilton at McLaren for 2008 14 Dec 2007

New McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen. December 14, 2007 © www.mclaren.com 2007 Elf Event with Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastien Loeb. Paul Ricard, France. 5th December 2007. Photo: Thierry Bovy/DPPI/RenaultF1. Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault celebrates 2nd place with his team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Fuji Speedway, Fuji, Japan, Sunday, 30 September 2007

McLaren have confirmed that Heikki Kovalainen is to become Lewis Hamilton’s team mate for the 2008 season. Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa will remain as McLaren’s third driver, while Gary Paffett will assist with the team’s testing programme when required.

Kovalainen made his Formula One race debut with Renault at the start of this season, but lost his seat earlier this week when the French squad announced Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr as their 2008 drivers. The 26-year-old Finn joins his new employers on a long-term contract and will commence testing in early January.

“I am so excited to join a team like Vodafone McLaren Mercedes,” said Kovalainen. “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.”

Commenting on the decision to appoint Kovalainen, McLaren’s Chief Operating Officer Martin Whitmarsh, said: “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.”

Norbert Haug, Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, McLaren’s engine partners, added: “Heikki is a talented driver who showed his skills during his debut season in Formula One this year. Heikki’s most impressive performance was at the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji where he finished second behind Lewis in extremely treacherous wet conditions.

“He is not only a quick driver but also one of the most consistent having finished in every Grand Prix except the last which puts him in the top five together with our drivers who covered most laps in 2007. Everybody in the team is looking forward to a very fruitful co-operation.”

Kovalainen finished seventh in the 2007 driver standings after scoring 30 of Renault’s 51 points.