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Takuma Sato's chances of grabbing a Lotus race seat for next season have been scuppered, according to his management. The Japanese driver, who is yet to return to Formula 1 since the demise of the Super Aguri team early in the 2008 season, had been tipped as a possible contender for a seat alongside Italy's Jarno Trulli.
With Lotus having revealed that its driver line-up will be confirmed on Monday, Pescara's Trulli is hot favourite for one drive due to his previous working relationships with team Technical Director Mike Gascoyne - indeed, the former Toyota driver has already been reported as having struck a 3-year deal with the Norfolk-based outfit.
Sato, on the other hand, had been listed as one of two strong contenders for the second seat, with ex McLaren man Heikki Kovalainen being the other. "We know Taku has not got Lotus, we found out yesterday," Mathew Winter, Commercial Manager for Sato, explained to Reuters. "He has now come off the list."
After testing for Toro Rosso last season, the Italian squad eventually elected to run Sébastien Buemi as a rookie in 2009 alongside Sébastien Bourdais, who was later replaced by Jaime Alguersuari. Winter admits that the Lotus decision is a surprising one.
"We don't know what the criteria was," he continued, recognising the team's Malaysian ownership. "We thought he was a very strong contender - you don't get more Asian than Taku. We haven't given up. There's still a few seats open and we're trying to hunt them down but his options are running out, so we don't know if he's going to be in Formula 1 next year."
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