Heikki Kovalainen is closing in on the second seat at McLaren for next year, autosport.com has learned, in a move that could see him replace Fernando Alonso for a second year running.
The Finn was handed his debut in Formula One this year at Renault as replacement for Alonso, but lost out on that drive last week when the French car manufacturer opted for Nelson Piquet Jr. as the returning Spaniard's teammate.
And now, although he has lost his seat at Renault, he could yet again follow in Alonso's footsteps and take the two-time world champion's seat that he has left vacant following his split with McLaren.
After losing out on the Renault driver, Kovalainen recently said that he had two 'interesting' offers to remain in F1, which were believed to be McLaren and Toyota.
It now appears that McLaren are edging closer to settling on Kovalainen instead of promoting one of their test drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett.
Some sources have suggested that a deal between McLaren and Kovalainen is already in place, but this has not been confirmed.
The speculation about Kovalainen landing the McLaren drive increased on Friday morning, however, with McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh making is clear that the team were seriously considering him.
"I think Heikki looks like a very interesting driver," Whitmarsh told the Guardian newspaper.
Kovalainen's inclusion in the McLaren line-up will be a big blow to de la Rosa, who had emerged as a strong contender to be Hamilton's teammate in 2008.
The Spaniard told El Pais newspaper on Thursday that he expected a decision within a week.
"Right now two people are up for the seat, and I guess we will soon know who the second driver will be, in less than a week," he said.
"If they are taking their time is because they are thinking hard about it, although if it was up to me the decision would have been made already.
"I prefer to be cautious and don't get my hopes up. There were a lot of candidates initially and now there are not that many. I guess everything will be known in a week."