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Kovalainen signs deal with McLaren

  • Story Highlights
  • Heikki Kovalainen is confirmed as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate at McLaren
  • The Finn replaces Fernando Alonso, who took Kovalinen's drive at Renault
  • Kovalainen finished his debut season in seventh place in the drivers' standings
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LONDON, England -- Finland's Heikki Kovalainen has been confirmed as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate at McLaren from next season.

Kovalainen (left) and Hamilton will be team-mates at the McLaren F1 team next season.

Kovalainen replaces two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who left last month after suffering an often strained relationship with the F1 team during the 2007 season.

Kovalainen, 26, joins McLaren on what has been described as a "long-term contract" and will commence his driving duties with the team in early January.

Kovalainen's switch to McLaren had been widely expected after his former employers Renault announced on Monday that they had signed Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jnr for 2008.

Kovalainen finished his debut 2007 season in seventh place in the drivers' standings, scoring his first career podium at the Japanese Grand Prix and outscoring his more experienced Renault team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella.

He becomes the third Finn to race for McLaren in a little over a decade, following in the footsteps of both Mika Hakkinen and reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

"I am so excited to join a team like Vodafone McLaren Mercedes," Kovalainen told the team's Web site,

"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 honor 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."

McLaren's chief operating officer Martin Whitmarsh added that he expects the partnership of Hamilton and Kovalainen to become a "formidable combination".

"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," he said.

"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."

Kovalainen's new team-mate Hamilton, whose scintillating performances in his rookie season hastened Alonso's departure from McLaren, expects to form a good working relationship with the Finn.

"As soon as the chequered flag went in Brazil I began to count down the days until Australia," said Hamilton. "I am really looking forward to 2008 and working with Heikki as my team-mate.

"Together with the team, we will do everything we can to ensure that our championship challenge is as strong and focused as possible."

McLaren also confirmed that Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa would remain as the team's third driver for next season, while Britain's Gary Paffett will also contribute to the team's testing program. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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