The 1Malaysia Lotus F1 Team is due to announce its 2010 driver pairing in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, and today’s internet pages have been filled with the sad news that Takuma Sato is out of contention for the second seat at the squad.

I say sad because Taku is a talented driver, an incredibly nice chap, and a racer with the most recent experience of what it takes to lead a start-up team from scratch. He would have been the perfect choice from a sporting as well as commercial point of view, but Lotus has made its decision and, for whatever reason, Taku doesn’t fit the bill.

All of which seems to have cemented opinion that it will be Heikki Kovalainen who is unveiled tomorrow as a Lotus driver alongside Jarno Trulli, who is known to have been Lotus’ preferred number 1 driver from the outset.

However, my sources are telling me that all is not as clear cut as at first thought, for Heikki is not alone in the running for the second seat. With the Michael Schumacher / Mercedes saga showing no sign of abating, I have it on good authority that Lotus are still trying to decide between Heikki and one other driver… Nick Heidfeld.

Nick was always thought to be a shoe in at Mercedes, but in recent weeks has slipped further out of contention for the seat as both Michael Schumacher and Robert Kubica’s names have been heavily linked to what is increasingly becoming the critical seat of the winter period. With Taku no longer in the running for the Lotus job, and Jarno Trulli all but confirmed from the off, it now seems the second seat is a straight fight between Heikki and Heidfeld.

I understand that a decision is yet to be taken over exactly who will fill Lotus’ second seat. Kovalainen, however, is the favourite.

It is also interesting to note that neither of Lotus’ drivers will be asked to bring funding with them.