Trulli, Kovalainen to Lotus F1?

UPDATE #10 Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director of Lotus F1, admits that Jarno Trulli has always been a desired candidate for a race seat with the team ahead of next season. As the legendary team name returns to the sport for the first time in sixteen years, the Italian will line up alongside Finn and fellow race winner Heikki Kovalainen. With one race victory to each of their names, Trulli and former McLaren driver Kovalainen will spearhead the Lotus attack as the 1Malaysia-backed outfit becomes one of four brand-new teams on the starting grid. For Gascoyne, who has worked with Trulli at Jordan, Renault and Toyota since the turn of the new millennium, the preference for first driver remained an easy verdict.

"Jarno was always one of our first choices," Englishman Gascoyne explained to the official F1 website. "I've worked with him several times and get on with him very well. He's also always been the quickest guy I've worked with over one lap and that will give us a clear view of the true pace of the car."

Trulli is yet to win again since achieving his maiden victory at the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix, with Kovalainen's sole success having been registered in Hungary last year. "Having experienced drivers in the car is essential," Mike added. "Starting so late, what we didn't want to do was take on new drivers, who we'd have to teach how to do their jobs in F1, and we've been fortunate to get two race winners on-board."

12/13/09 We are the first to confirm that this rumor is 'fact.' For certain Trulli and Kovalainen will be confirmed at Lotus on Monday.

12/13/09 (GMM) At noon Malaysian time on Monday, Lotus looks set to announce that Jarno Trulli has been signed for the 2010 season.

Citing a person with apparent knowledge of the three-year deal, the Associated Press said the Italian's contract will have an option to leave the team at the end of each season.

Reuters mentioned Heikki Kovalainen as a likely teammate for the 35-year-old former Renault and Toyota driver, after Takuma Sato's manager Matthew Winter said the Japanese is out of the running.

"We know Taku has not got Lotus — we found out yesterday," he said.

Kuala Lumpur-born Fairuz Fauzy will almost certainly be named as the reserve driver.

12/12/09 Reports state that Jarno Trulli has confirmed a 3-year contract with the Lotus team, due to start in 2010. With the 1Malaysia-backed squad set to announce its plans for next season on Monday, the Italian's association has long since been predicted due to his previous working relationships with Technical Director Mike Gascoyne. Having made his Formula 1 debut with Minardi in 1997, Pescara's Trulli has since driven for Prost, Jordan, Renault and Toyota, the latter of which he has spent the last five full seasons with.

With the Japanese manufacturer now out of the sport, however, The Associated Press reports that Trulli has confirmed a 3-year pact with Lotus, due to be announced on Monday.

Team Principal Tony Fernandes has already confirmed that both drivers are signed, with Autosport predicting that either Takuma Sato or former McLaren man Heikki Kovalainen are the most likely candidates for the second seat. Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy, World Series by Renault runner-up this year, is hotly tipped as reserve driver.

12/10/09 (GMM) Lotus team boss Tony Fernandes has played down reports Jacques Villeneuve is a candidate for a race seat in 2010.

38-year-old Villeneuve, F1's 1997 world champion who has been out of the sport for more than three seasons, has been linked with a return for next year and recently visited Lotus' UK headquarters.

But British reports including those in The Sun and the BBC insist that Fernandes, who is also in charge of the Malaysian airline and Williams sponsor AirAsia, ruled out Villeneuve while at the Motor Sport Business Forum in Monaco on Wednesday.

Fernandes was also quoted as saying Lotus' full lineup for 2010 should be announced next week, and that the drivers will be paid rather than selected because of their financial dowries.

"We know we aren't going to be competing (at the front) in year one, but it takes time and we'll have a good basis for moving forward," he said.

Having slowed to just a backmarker in his old age, will Jacques Villeneuve return to F1 to further destroy his reputation?

12/02/09 Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve looks set to return to Formula One – with the new Lotus team expected to announce their line-up next week.

The 38-year-old, who won the drivers' championship in 1997 for Williams, has not raced in F1 since 2006.

However he enlisted the services of his former trainer Dr Erwin Gollner in a bid to get himself back into shape with what the Canadian describes as a "really, really brutal" fitness regime.

And although Villeneuve has claimed the discussions with Lotus are "still preliminary" he has claimed that he wouldn't "come to suffer, in a retreat, leaving my two sons far away, if I didn't believe things are moving along well".

Lotus are set to name their team for the 2010 season in the immediate future, with chief executive officer Riad Asmat telling The Star: "We will name two drivers and a reserve. Negotiations are still going on. Sky Sports

11/27/09 (GMM) Jacques Villeneuve on Thursday had lunch at a pub near the Norfolk (UK) headquarters of the new formula one team Lotus.

The 1997 world champion, who is openly hoping to re-enter the sport in 2010 after a three-year absence and has been training intensively in Austria, said earlier this month that he was in preliminary talks with the outfit.

The local Norwich Evening News said French Canadian Villeneuve, 38, ate a fillet steak at the Bird in Hand pub in the company of a Lotus executive.

Team boss Tony Fernandes said on Twitter earlier this week that he had landed in London on a Virgin flight from New York and would "Have to decide on 4 drivers for 2 seats".

Group Lotus confirmed that Villeneuve visited its Hethel headquarters.

"It has been a great day for me to catch up with my friend Gino Rosato in his new role at Lotus and to see where the magic of Lotus comes from," said the winner of 11 grands prix.

11/26/09 Rumor has it that Jacques Villeneuve has seen drinking in the old village of Hingham, in the UK……Hingham also being the new home of Lotus F1. Hmm……..

11/09/09 (GMM) A Lotus team official has given no indication as to whether there is substance to reports linking Kamui Kobayashi with a 2010 race seat.

Jarno Trulli, Jacques Villeneuve and Christian Klien have already been linked with the new Malaysian-owned outfit, and after Toyota's departure from F1, the 23-year-old Japanese Kobayashi named Lotus as his preferred plan-B for next year.

Kobayashi impressed while deputizing for the injured Timo Glock in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and had Toyota stayed in F1 he would almost certainly have secured a full time seat.

Lotus F1 chief executive Riad Asmat said he was happy Lotus is considered a strong option by drivers.

"It is quite an honor for us to be seen as such and for drivers such as Kobayashi wanting to be part of the team. This means they see us as a serious team even though we're new," he told the New Straits Times.

11/09/09 (GMM) Jacques Villeneuve has admitted he is "flattered" by his talks with Lotus about the 2010 season, but insists no deal with the new Malaysian team has been done.

The 1997 world champion, as well as BMW-Sauber tester Christian Klien, met with Lotus' Mike Gascoyne in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

Lotus is close to agreeing a deal with Jarno Trulli for next season, and Gascoyne has been quoted as saying he wants to appoint another experienced driver to occupy the second seat.

"It's very flattering to know that he said publicly that we have spoken," Villeneuve, who has been out of F1 since losing his BMW drive in mid-2006, told France's Rue Frontenac.

"The discussions are still only preliminary," the 38-year-old French Canadian added, "and we're not yet at the stage to talk about the details of a possible association."

Gascoyne has said Lotus wants to name its 2010 lineup by the end of November.

11/06/09 Mike Gascoyne of Lotus F1 said recently when asked about their driver status "We're looking for two drivers with experience," Gascoyne explained. "We're not looking for pay drivers or new drivers; we think it's very important for the team.

"What is becoming clear to every one of the new teams is that we've gone from last to first of the new teams very rapidly, we're being seen as a serious entity – we've got quite a lot of interest but we want two experienced drivers there."

Mike has a history with Jarno Trulli at Jordan, Renault and Toyota from the past, and the departure of Toyota adds logic to the speculation that Trulli would make the move. "He's one of the guys we'd like to have," Gascoyne continued. "Jarno has, over one lap, always been sensational and that's even more important in a new team because you need to know where you are on a Saturday – Jarno can always give you that."

Recent rumors also have Kamui Kobayashi eyeing the seat, having thoroughly impressed in his debut late this season, with no testing time at all. 1997 Champion Jacques Villeneuve is another man to have spoken with Lotus, which hopes to reveal its full line-up by the end of this month.

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