Heikki Kovalainen has been told that he needs to raise his game over the remainder of the season if he is to have any chance of keeping hold of his seat at McLaren in 2010.
AUTOSPORT reports that Kovalainen's option for next year with McLaren has now lapsed, although the team has not ruled out retaining the Finn. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh has made it clear however that Kovalainen needs to deliver more in the next few races than he has shown so far this season – and the Finn was informed of the situation during a factory visit on Wednesday.
"Heikki is doing, as a team player, a fantastic job in this team," Whitmarsh said in a media conference. "On his own evaluation he has not raced as well as he would have liked and we would have liked him to this year. I was frankly just talking to him on the subject a few minutes before this call. He is working hard...
"A lot of us want to see Heikki get some good results this year, and that will ensure that he remains with us. That is certainly our wish. His goal going into Valencia this weekend is to win – and he is capable of winning the race this weekend.
"He has been a good qualifier, he has done some good qualifying times, and he is capable of qualifying well and winning this race. So that is what he is going to focus on, and I've just had that conversation with him. Then on Sunday evening he will start thinking about Spa, and that is what we want him to focus on – not all the speculation."
In a boost to Kovalainen's situation, McLaren is adamant it has not begun discussions with any other driver yet about a seat in 2010, despite fresh rumors linking Nico Rosberg with the outfit now that the German's previous likely destination BMW Sauber is out of F1.
"Speculation is normal," said Whitmarsh. "We are not commenting on it, but I can confirm that contrary to some of the speculation we are not in discussions with any other drivers outside this team at the moment."
And, denying any talk that McLaren was under pressure to take a German driver to appease engine partner Mercedes-Benz, Whitmarsh said: "In terms of nationality, obviously some nationalities from a marketing perspective are more convenient, 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."