• Nov 22, 2009
Reports circulating the motorsport press indicate that USF1 has signed a provisional contract with Argentine driver Jose Maria Lopez to drive for the new team next season. The arrangement, however, depends on Lopez bringing with him $8 million in sponsorship dollars, of which the young South American reportedly already has 80% in his coffers.

Lopez has experience in formula racing, but has been off the radar for a few years now. After competing in Formula Renault and Formula 3000, Lopez drove a couple of seasons in the GP2 series and even ran some test sessions for Renault F1 . After that, he returned to Argentina, where he competed in local touring cars and in a few international sports car races.

Only a few months ago, USF1 team principal Peter Windsor said the team would absolutely not take on a driver purely on these financial criteria alone, but after balancing their budget, the nascent American grand prix team has apparently decided otherwise. Meanwhile, the team is said to be considering a number of F1 veterans for the second seat, with a 12-name short list that reportedly includes such names as Villeneuve, Montagny and de la Rosa. So much for nurturing American talent.

[Source: Autosport and F1-Live]


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  • 21 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Only a few months ago, USF1 team principal Peter Windsor said the team would absolutely not take on a driver purely on these financial criteria alone"

      When Money Talks......
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is a bit disappointing. But mainly I'm concerned about F1 itself. With the departure of some of the top teams, it is critical F1 get good new talented drivers and teams in, and if they can't afford to put forth their best efforts and best drivers it won't be good for the series in the long run.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ why not the LS2LS7?

        I am sorry but you have no idea what you are talking about.

        --"There were factory teams the whole time, Ferrari, Lotus, Honda, McLaren, Renault." --

        Ferrari was a factory team and a"top team", but Lotus, Honda, McLaren, Renault were clearly not.

        Lotus and McLaren build cars then stuffed the best engine they could get in them.

        Honda and Renault were engine suppliers only, they often had direct sponsorship of a driver. So where a particular driver went their engines wold follow, but that was it.

        As for the recent Honda, BMW and Toyota factory teams no one but you would consider them "top teams". BMW won one race and was close to being considered a top team for a very brief period but that was it. You seem to equate spending tons of cash as criteria for being a top team.

        A "top team" is a consistently winning team period.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "F1 was at it best in the 80s and 90s, before big budgets and factory teams, hopefully it is getting back to those roots."

        This was also the era of pay drivers, conversely related to the fact that privateers don't have the "big budgets" to make driver selections purely based on skill.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you don't like the term "top teams", then make up your own (as you have made up your own definition anyway). I'll give you the definition of what I was looking to say:

        "A team that has the resources and wherewithal to race every week with proper cash outlay for drivers and car expenses such that they don't fail to show up some weeks or show up but tell their drivers they can't give the car the boot."

        F1 has lost two of these and if they are replaced by teams with no money or ability to compete properly they will have a problem.

        As to the 80s, Honda was a full team top to bottom sometimes, Renault was also (1980-1984). Yes, there were non-werks teams (it's tough to say F1 truly has privateers when each team was a constructor by definition), but for the most part (Williams being an enormous exception) they weren't winning races, just as they aren't today. There can be only one winner and thus there are a lot of top teams which aren't consistent winners. These teams are vital to F1, and they're in danger of losing them.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @The Hit

        I hate to say it but history proves you wrong. Driver skill had little to do with how they got their break into F1.

        Four drivers of the many who paid there way into drives:

        Senna, Keke Rosberg, Lauda and Michael Schumacher .

        It could be argued that when a driver buys a ride he is a little more motivated to perform than a driver that has a fat team contract.

        • 5 Years Ago
        @ why not the LS2LS7?

        I forgot about the Renault factory team of the early 80s, I was wrong on that.

        What years was there a factory Honda team before 2006 when they bought out BAR?

        Anyway I think your concern over the losing teams big budget teams is a little overblown. Mercedes is already claiming they will hold budgets down and the new small teams are going to benefit from computer simulation and cost cutting done by FOTA and the FIA. Just look at ForceIndia this year. That team has no money and they were competitive at a few tracks and almost won at Spa. That will be the new model for small teams. And if the FIA takes away more aero grip in the future teams could be competitive with even less money.
      • 5 Years Ago
      tot USF1 gonna full American Team...... who know the first driver gonna be a non american driver
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm pretty sure winning is more important than fielding a losing American team their first outing. There's no infrastructure here for the talent at this point. But soon we should hopefully see in a few years maybe a Formula 3000 winner getting a drive
        • 5 Years Ago
        its been stated numerous times that an "All-American" line-up would occur over time.

        I think nothing of it, it is brand new team and yes in a league where millions of dollars are needed to play the game. He seems to be a decent driver and one that could be developed by a current and/or experience F1 driver. USF1 would be smart to save its money for the experienced driver, as they are going to need him for the debut season to provide results on track and to help develop whichever rookie driver that gets signed. Lopez having 80% of his own sponsorship money is not such a bad thing, and I'm sure he wouldn't have trouble to acquire the rest. Depending on future USGPE press releases for the offcial lineup, and car debut, I think yes it will be a tough first season but I would expect nothing less from a team that is trying to be competitive at a fraction of the price
      • 5 Years Ago
      If you can't handle sour patch kids don't eat sour patch kids!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Where do these guys get the money? Are they all wealthy?
      David Ederer
      • 5 Years Ago
      Europeans trying to get the US interested in their sport, sign someone from Argentina to drive their car?
      • 5 Years Ago
      pay to drive. . . lame! it wouldn't be if he hadn't complained about getting discarded for senna's nephew. in an interview for argentine sports newspaper "Olé" he said that: "the only difference between him and me is that his last name is Senna and mine is Lopez". he forgot to mention that he also needed the money and that is the only reazon he is going to run in F1 and not his last name. just say "i am going to pay my way into a seat" and just enjoy it for what it is dont make it look like someone took something you neer had from you.
      thanks autoblog for the post!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      It seems the information of the post involves a poor interpretation of the facts.

      Lopez if not only experienced in formula racing but also is a great car developer. In fact he was a mayor contributer to the outstanding R24 and R25 F1 cars.

      He was nursed and developed as a driver under the Renault drivers program. He is a multiple formula and touring car winner in the most competitive championships.

      Unfortunately, the USF1 team has no car to be raced (so far) and no real F1 experience and as everybody knows, in F1 cash is not the most important fact of the wining equation.

      There must be other drivers out there that are better, but I'm quite sure that Lopez is an absolute bargain for what he brings to the USF1 team.

      Also, we must acknowledge that no american star driver is seduced by F1, mainly because Formula 1 is not popular in the US and F1 races usually involve more than 4 left turns in the speedway, thing that has proven too uninteresting (or difficult) to Americans since Phil Hill.

        • 5 Years Ago
        to AZZO45b: José left Renault at the same time as Alonso.
        He was the fourth driver at that time and their chances to be Renault's test driver vanished once Nelsinho Piquet and Ricardo Zonta payed more money than him. That's why he got back to Argentina to race touring cars. He finished as champion in TRV6 and TC2000 and second in Turismo Carretera.
        • 5 Years Ago
        José left Renault at the same time as Alonso.
        He was the fourth driver at that time and their chances to be Renault's test driver vanished once Nelsinho Piquet and Ricardo Zonta payed more money than him.
        That's why he went back to Argentina. This year he ran at three categories: TRV6, TC2000 and Turismo Carretera finishing as champion at TRV6 and TC200 and second in Turismo Carretera
        • 5 Years Ago
        According to a phone interview with Peter Windsor a on November 9th on the Formula 1 Blog podcast (F1B Downshift episode 6), Windsor stated (vaguely paraphrasing here) they want an experienced driver that could mold into the team, as opposed to the team molding around the driver. They aren't looking for a top driver that was set in another F1 teams ways, but one that would grow with the team and help develop the car. He also mentioned that an American driver for 2010 was not an option since no American drivers got a 'Super Licence' needed to race in F1 for 2010.

        I don't know anything about this guy, but if Cadoren is right, then aside from the money, the team may work out well enough in a few years. I'm not holding my breath for USGPE in 2010, but then again, I don't think anyone is thinking there will be another alignment of the stars like Brawn had this year.

        The championship of the bottom 5 will be interesting, since the top three will probably be the usual suspects. (Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Cadoren: Are you young Jose's dad? Where do you get that he helped greatly develop the Renault R24 & 25 ??? F1 teams don't usually rely on 20 year old test drivers!

        Proof? Franck Montagny was listed as Renault f1's "3rd driver" & its official lead test driver. He gets the credit for the R24 & R25 development. The championship cars were the R25 & the R26. The R26 had Heikki Kovalainen as its main test driver.

        See a pattern? Montagny & Kovalainen continued as F1 drivers. Franck drove Indycars & P1 / P2 prototypes. Young Mr. Lopez developed a rep as a "crasher" & was runnng touring cars in his home country of Argentina. Sounds like a stretch for F1 return.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hey, he's from South right? Probably has a place in Miami too.

      Pay to drive has been symptomatic of bottom feeder teams in F1 for a long, long time, too bad USF1 starts this way.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just as well. Though I hate the concept of pay drivers, I wish some of these new teams would leave the nationalistic rubbish for A1 GP.

      Dunno what the hell is wrong with Mclaren trying to have an all brit lineup.
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