Argentinian Lopez close to signing for US F1

Argentina's Jose Maria Lopez said on Sunday that he has a verbal agreement with the US F1 Team, an outfit that will make its Formula One debut in 2010, but that the agreement depends on his being able to complete the required sponsorship.

2003 Renault F1 RDD driver Jose-Maria Lopez.
Photo by LAT Photographic.

"Verbally, we have an agreement with US F1, depending on the sponsors. We already have 80 percent of the budget," said Lopez during a radio interview with the Campeones programme which is broadcasted in Argentina. "The contracts have to be completed and then everything must be taken to US F1."

After having visited the headquarters of the team which is directed by Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor, and located in Charlotte, North Carolina, Lopez said that with that 80 percent of the funds, he can be sure of a seat in Formula One. "There are further meetings so as round off the budget. This week is going to be fundamental. With that 80 percent we can proceed to sign."

"We are in a very good situation and the team is backing us, something which is hard to obtain. There is a short way to go yet, but one does not want to illusionate oneself because we know how this type of things can change from one moment to another. I would like to define things this next week, so as not to give the chance to any other driver who is negotiating, or to someone who might appear with an important sum of money. We have to try and hurry as much as possible the steps leading to signing the contract."

Lopez, who claimed the 2002 Formula Renault 2000 and 2003 Formula Renault V6 championships, was a Renault Formula One test-driver and formed part of the driver development programme of the French team. After two seasons in the GP2 division, Renault decided to give Nelson A. Piquet an opportunity in Formula One for 2007, and the Argentinian driver was left without a drive. He has since then been competing with much success in touring car divisions in Argentina. He also competed in the Sebring 12 Hours in 2007, and in some FIA GT rounds during 2008.

"They (US F1) are very happy. They say I fit in perfectly with the type of driver they are seeking. I have experience aboard a Formula One car, the right age, I'm fine in a whole lot of aspects," he said. "This is like a present for me. I am going to enjoy it in a different way than many Formula One drivers because things have happened in a dfferent way. I've lived through a lot of things. I've been at the top some times in Europe, and then I had to return to my country."

If Lopez is finally confirmed as one of the US F1 drivers, he will be the first Argentinian driver competing in Formula One since his countryman Gaston Mazzacane last did so in 2001, when he raced for the Prost Grand Prix team in four rounds.