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Sato drops out of Lotus contention

Takuma SatoThe new Lotus team looks set to field Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen next season after Takuma Sato's management revealed that the Japanese driver had been informed he had failed to secure a drive with the squad.

Sato was believed to be vying with Kovalainen for one Lotus seat, with Trulli a strong favourite for the other. Lotus is due to announce its line-up tomorrow, but Sato's manager Matthew Winter says his driver has already missed out.

"We know Taku has not got Lotus - we found out yesterday," Winter told Reuters. "He has now come off the list."

Winter had hoped Sato would find favour with Lotus' Asian backers, as the team is ultimately set to be based in Malaysia, and has been founded by Air Asia entrepreneur Tony Fernandes.

"We don't know what the criteria was," Winter said. "We thought he was a very strong contender, you don't get more Asian than Taku."

Sato had hoped that the expanded Formula 1 field next season would enable him to make a comeback nearly two years after the collapse of Super Aguri left him on the sidelines. He had also been linked to the IndyCar Series, but said F1 was his first priority.

With the Lotus option gone, Winter conceded that Sato's hopes of a 2010 F1 seat were now fading.

"We haven't given up," he said. "There are still a few seats open and we are trying to hunt them down. His options are running out so we don't know if he is going to be in Formula 1 next year."

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