Norbert Haug has played down speculation that McLaren-Mercedes will definitely lose Kimi Raikkonen at the end of 2006.
Many paddock insiders are adamant that the Finnish driver has already signed a Ferrari contract, but Renault recently declared its intention to woo the 26-year-old from his incumbent squad.
But Haug, competition director for Mercedes-Benz, insists that it is not a foregone conclusion that Raikkonen is destined to not wear silver next year.
He told Auto Motor Und Sport: ”If Kimi is intelligent, he will stay where he is.
”Then he can demonstrate if he is better than Fernando Alonso.”
Even if Kimi does stay put, McLaren – given Juan Pablo Montoya’s exit for NASCAR – have at least one seat to fill.
Alongside Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett, Haug admits that Lewis Hamilton is therefore a possibility for next season, even if to some McLaren figures it would make more sense to give him a year of experience at a lesser team.
”His first priority is to win the GP2 championship,” Norbert Haug said, ”but without doubt he is one of our options.
”He has a lot of potential, and he is already part of our family, which is an advantage.”