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Kovalainen confirmed at McLaren

Heikki Kovalainen has been confirmed as Lewis Hamilton's new teammate at McLaren for next year.

The Finn joins the Woking-based outfit on a long-term deal after an impressive debut season with Renault, and McLaren management are convinced that he and Hamilton will make a 'formidable' combination for 2008.

The team have also confirmed that Pedro de la Rosa will remain as third driver, with Gary Paffett staying on board as tester.

McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh said: "We had a number of options open to us and as always we want to make sure that we have the most competitive driver line-up and I think that Lewis and Heikki will be a formidable combination.

"Both enjoyed great rookie seasons in 2007 and share a genuine passion for winning and being the best. Heikki made a strong impression and Lewis' performance so far has been outstanding and speaks for itself.

"I am confident that they will push each other on track and work well together off track. In addition with Pedro remaining our primary test driver alongside Gary, we really have a strong package and look forward to 2008."

Kovalainen found himself out of a job at Renault after the team opted for Nelson Piquet Jr. to be Fernando Alonso's new teammate. But he is delighted at his new opportunity, especially as it means he will follow in the footsteps of compatriots Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen.

"I am so excited to join a team like Vodafone McLaren Mercedes," said Heikki. "So far I have been blown away by the dedication and commitment to winning which is clear through the entire organisation and I am really excited about our joint future.

"As a Finn it's an honour for me to follow in Mika and Kimi's footsteps. I haven't really spent a lot of time with Lewis so far but from what I know I think we will work well together and do our best for the team."

Kovalainen's new teammate Hamilton is equally looking forward to the arrival of the Finn, having endured a few tough moments with Alonso last year.

"As soon as the chequered flag went in Brazil I began to count down the days until Australia," said Hamilton. "I am really looking forward to 2008 and working with Heikki as my teammate.

"Together with the team we will do everything we can to ensure that our Championship challenge is as strong and focused as possible. My first year in Formula One was incredible and I was so fortunate to spend it with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and I hope that Heikki will enjoy his first year with the team as much as I did mine."

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