Lotus is poised to announce Heikki Kovalainen as the replacement for his surgery-bound countryman Kimi Raikkonen for the last two races of 2013.
It emerged earlier that the Enstone based team, despite having last year's GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi as its reserve driver, had made an offer to Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg.
Hulkenberg turned it down, but it was a clear sign that Italian Valsecchi was not in fact the obvious favourite for the role, as Lotus tries desperately to improve its position in the lucrative constructors' championship despite Raikkonen's exit.
Team boss Eric Boullier told the Italian website blogf1.it: "We are fighting for third place in the constructors' championship so we need a driver with experience who is used to the struggle of winning points.
"I'm not saying that Davide doesn't deserve a chance, because he has done a great job and we are pleased with him. But he lacks the experience," Boullier added.
Citing sources inside the Lotus team, blogf1.com said Finn Kovalainen will shortly be announced by Lotus as Raikkonen's replacement for the last two grands prix of 2013.
A former team driver in Enstone's works Renault days, Kovalainen is also a race winner for McLaren and has experience of this year's cars and tyres due to his Friday practice work with Caterham, for whom he raced between 2010 and 2012.
"Heikki has been waiting for something like this," fellow Finn Mika Salo told MTV3 this week, "and if I was a team boss, I would take him rather than Valsecchi."
Hulkenberg turned down offer to replace Raikkonen
Nico Hulkenberg turned down an offer from Lotus to replace the surgery-bound Kimi Raikkonen for the remaining two grands prix of 2013.
German Hulkenberg, who currently drives for Sauber, is the hot favourite to replace Raikkonen full-time in 2014, but only if financially-struggling Lotus completes its crucial investment deal with the Quantum group.
If that deal collapses, as many insiders believe it will, Pastor Maldonado - who will not drive for Williams next season - is tipped to switch his lucrative PDVSA backing to the Enstone based team.
Nevertheless, late on Tuesday Hulkenberg's manager Werner Heinz revealed that, in the past days, Lotus expressed interest in the 26-year-old racing in Raikkonen's place in Austin this weekend, and then the Brazil finale a week later.
"We were presented an offer that we are exploring now," Heinz was quoted by the SID news agency.
"Within the next two days, a decision will be made. But this does not mean that Nico is leaving Sauber," he added.
Indeed, with apparently no guarantee of the full 2014 race seat, moving to Lotus now would appear to be a risk for the otherwise highly-rated Hulkenberg.
"It's a big risk," agreed German-language F1 commentator Christian Danner, according to Bild newspaper.
"He would have to get used to a new car in the space of three practice sessions -- usually you need months."
After a short period of reflection, Heinz told Bild: "We had an offer from Lotus and we discussed it.
"We decided that Nico will do the last two races with Sauber."
Lotus reserve driver Davide Valsecchi, a F1 rookie and last year's GP2 champion, is now the favourite to replace Raikkonen in Austin and Brazil.
Sergio Perez Confirms McLaren Exit
Embattled Mexican driver Sergio Perez has confirmed his exit from McLaren, on the tail of rumours that the two would soon part ways.
Perez had this week hinted that bad news was indeed looming when, at a sponsor event near Mexico City, he described 2013 as "the most disappointing season in my career".
Today, Perez released a statement announcing his departure.
First of all, I would like to thank McLaren for giving me the opportunity to be with them this season. It has been an honour for me to have been in one of the most competitive teams in the sport and I do not regret even a bit having joined them. I have always given the best of me for the team and still despite this I could not achieve what I aimed for in this historic team.
I am committed to delivering very good results in these last two races, especially in Austin. I am so much looking forward to see all my people gathered together, feel their energy and show them the best of me.
I would like to say to every single one of my fans around the world and in my country that I am eternally grateful to them. They have never let me down, especially in difficult moments like these. I truly appreciate their support, they have never forgotten me.
I have met a lot of new people at McLaren and I have made many good friends as well. From the top management level to the marketing, accounting and engineering departments to the mechancics, the cooks, the catering people and basically everyone on the team, I am eternally grateful to them. It has been a learning experience to me.
I would like to wish the team the very best in the future. I will always be a fan of McLaren. In the meanwhile I will be looking at my future to ensure my position in the best possible package to fight for wins.
Thanks to McLaren and all of its partners for this season, you can rest assured that I will never give up.
Kubica insists F1 return not impossible
Robert Kubica has admitted it is unlikely he will ever return to formula one.
Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali admitted recently that, prior to the Pole's horror rally crash of early 2011, Kubica was a front runner to become a driver for the fabled Italian team.
"Unfortunately, I don't think he will be back," said Domenicali, referring to the limited mobility of 28-year-old Kubica's right arm, which was almost severed in the crash.
Indeed, former BMW and Renault driver Kubica admitted in an interview with the BBC this week that a return to F1 is "almost impossible".
Having tested this year in Mercedes' F1 simulator, he said he could drive an F1 car on a circuit like Barcelona, but not somewhere like Monaco, because he is unable to rotate his arm to achieve steeper steering angles.
So Kubica said Domenicali's frank assessment of his F1 return hopes didn't bother him.
"Maybe it sounds strange but I was actually quite pleased, because it showed they've been checking up on me," he told the Independent, as he prepares to race Citroen's full world rally car in Wales this weekend.
"I know the reality, and the reality is the improvement in my range of movement is still happening," said Kubica, who this year won the second-tier WRC2 title.
"There is no 'finished' (with F1)," he insisted, according to the Daily Mail.
"Some doctors say it (his arm) can't be put right; some (say) that it can. I am hoping," added Kubica.
"One day I would like the opportunity, but I understand that the sport goes on and time keeps running."
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