• Jan 26th 2010 at 1:58PM
  • 32
Left to right: USF1 chief Peter Windsor, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Jose Maria "Pechito" Lopez

The USF1 team has ended months of speculation by announcing the first of two drivers for its debut in the upcoming 2010 Formula One season. Actually, it was the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who announced the contract between the team and one Jose Maria "Pechito" Lopez, hinting at just how much support the Argentine driver received from his home country.

Although the start-up – the first F1 team based in the U.S. in some 40 years – initially said it wanted to field American drivers, in the end it comes down to financial backing for USF1 and the other three teams slated to join the grid this year. That's not to say that Lopez is undeserving; although a rookie in technical terms, Pechito has three years of testing with the Renault F1 team under his belt, along with several years in karting, Formula 3000, GP2 and other racing series.

When he makes his race debut, Lopez will be the 24th Argentine driver to make the grid, following such greats as De Tomaso, Fangio and Reutemann. And the announcement brings the 2010 line-up one step closer to completion, with only a seat each at Renault, Campos and USF1 remaining unconfirmed.

In a related development, the Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso teams announced the promotion of reigning British F3 champion Daniel Ricciardo and former Formula Renault 2.0 champion Brendon Hartley – of Australia and New Zealand respectively – as their shared reserve drivers for this year. Details on the Lopez announcement in the press release after the jump.

[Source: USF1]
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US F1 Team announces Jose Maria Lopez as driver for 2010 season
Argentine star to race in US F1's Debut Campaign

Charlotte, N.C. (Jan. 25, 2010) – US F1 Team announced today that they have signed the former Renault F1 Team test driver, Jose Maria "Pechito" Lopez (26), to race with them in the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship. Lopez will be the 24th Argentine* to race in Formula One, sustaining a heritage that began sixty years ago when Juan Manuel Fangio and Froilan "Pepe" Gonzalez took the F1 world by storm.

"Securing 'Pechito' Lopez for our debut season has been a goal of ours for a long time," said US F1 Team Executive Vice President Peter Windsor. "We've been following his career since he dominated the Renault V6 Championship in 2003 and we're thrilled to have him on board as we return America to Formula One. Lopez is a consummate professional and born leader. The most revealing thing about his character was how he handled the disappointment of not racing for Renault after three years of testing with them in F1. Instead of moping around and feeling sorry for himself, he returned to Argentina and totally dominated the local scene, winning 38 races and three championships. He became a major star as a result and, in turn, the Argentine nation – a country where F1 is second only to soccer - has got behind him." As proof of that, Lopez's US F1 contract was officially announced by the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in the Casa Rosada (Government House) in Buenos Aires on the afternoon of January 25.

After meeting Jose Maria and Windsor, the President commented: "The Argentine government is very happy to get behind this exciting new project and we wish Jose Maria and the team all the best for the 2010 season."

"This is a truly memorable day for me, my family and the people of Argentina," said Lopez, who has more than 6,000 kilometers of F1 test experience. "I have been working towards this day for much of my life and I can't thank Peter and Ken [Anderson] enough for this opportunity. Of course a new F1 team faces many challenges but our goal is to improve with each race and build a foundation that will eventually see this team competing for wins and championships."

After winning in karts all over the world from the age of seven – Lopez was leading Lewis Hamilton in the world final in Japan when his chain broke - he switched to race cars in Europe in 2001 . He won the 2002 Italian Formula Renault Championship with four wins, five poles and three podiums and in European Formula Renault he scored two wins, two poles and a podium. He dominated the European Formula Renault V6 Championship in 2003 (five wins, eight poles, seven podiums) and in one season of F3000 and two in GP2 he scored a win (Barcelona), seven podiums and a pole. As a contracted Renault driver, he also completed thousands of miles in the F1 car, focusing mainly on shake-downs and starts but also completing simulated race distances with compromised set-ups.

Disappointed not be given the opportunity to race in F1, Jose returned to Argentina in 2007. His positive, super-professional approach resulted in three championships, 38 wins and 36 pole positions. As a result, Jose became a hero in his own country and regained the momentum he needed to focus once again on F1.

US F1 Team, which is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, the motorsports capital of the United States, will be the only American-based team on the grid in 2010 and the first in more than 40 years. Team Principal, President and CEO Ken Anderson said finding the right drivers was a major part of forming US F1 Team.

"So many things go into starting a Formula One team from scratch," Anderson said. "You can nail every step along the way but if you don't have the right guys in the seats, everything else is for naught. With Jose Maria Lopez we have further positioned ourselves for a successful 2010 debut campaign."

* Argentina's F1 Heritage – Argentines who have raced in the FIA Formula One World Championship

1) Pablo Birger
2) Roberto Bonomi
3) Clemar Bucci
4) Antonio Creus
5) Jorge Daponte
6) Alejandro De Tomaso
7) Nasif Estefano
8) Juan Manuel Fangio
9) Norberto Fontana
10) Oscar Galvez
11) Jose Froilan Gonzalez
12) Miguel Angel Guerra
13) Jesus Iglesias
14) Oscar Larrauri
15) Onofre Marimon
16) Gaston Mazzacane
17) Carlos Menditeguy
18) Roberto Mieres
19) Carlos Reutemann
20) A. Rodriguez Larreta
21) Adolfo Schwelm Cruz
22) Esteban Tuero
23) Ricardo Zunino

Note: Antonio Creus raced under dual Spanish/Argentine nationality.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Thia is a joke, right?
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is a joke right?
      • 5 Years Ago
      That's a big ass red belt/buckle combo she has on.... and for all you commenting about how good looking she is... you guys wouldn't get to first base... go back to the basement and choke the chicken.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Congratulation to Argentina on having a hot President.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Damn!!! She is hot!!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I have a "Stimulus Package" for you right here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        She can violate my central bank any time.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I want to "Audit" her "Federal Reserve"...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I should say GILF?
        • 5 Years Ago
        How do you say 'milf' in Spanish?
        • 5 Years Ago
        She can Martin my Redrago.................this is too dirty.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'll "vote" for her "stimulus" anytime...
        • 5 Years Ago
        People, you can be sure that, if she was your president, you will definitely feel sick every time you see, hear or even hear about her...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Pay drivers are just a part of the modern racing landscape. I don't know that much abour Lopez's career although I've heard the name mentioned a few times, maybe from GP2.

      Back when Montoya was in F1 he had a huge following. Granted it was Colombians for the most part but I'm sure he had a big Hispanic following as well. Maybe if Lopez can generate the same sort of following it will bring some attention to USF1 in general.
      • 5 Years Ago
      interesting season for 2010 : 4 really good teams to fight for the title and 4 new back markers to fight for not finishing last . sorry but USF1 goes in the second group : it is going to be a disaster. first, Formula 1 is far more complex and competitive than any other car championship, not to mention that american race culture is at the complete opposite (simple chassis, big engine, drag race or ovals...). and second, they are not starting well : small budget, unknown driver, no experience, and based in the US (far from most of the tracks, they will be slow to react). can't see it going well...
      • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      How come while we are stuck with Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, Argentinians get her to be their President? Hot Damn.

      BTW congrats to USF1.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Another piece of the puzzle falls into place. Congrats USF1! Looking forward to a great season one!
      • 5 Years Ago
      The headline should have read thusly: USF1 signs Jose Maria Lopez, holds photo op in strange antique shop place. Wierd."

      Also, a blazer and tie adds about twenty years to Peter Windsor.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Fisi wouldn't have brought sponsorships. Truth be told, some sponsors may hold back until they see USF1 results on the track, ala Brawn.

        While we shouldn't expect them to have Brawn like results this year, we should still support their decisions. Surely Lopez isn't a long term solution.

        Windsor has stated his desire to EVENTUALLY bring American drivers to F1. Lopez makes a decent pick for a number 2.

        Now they need to sign a number 1.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I thought USF1 was serious about competing, but after signing a washed up driver who has been in touring cars for the past couple years because he can bring in a lot of sponsorship money rather than hiring someone because of their skill, I'm not so sure.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @tuna, Yes, I've seen him race and yes I've followed his career. No, I'm not a professional at evaluating drivers, but I doubt you are either, so why even bother posting?

        @Weaksauce, I have said many times that Bruno Senna wouldn't have ever made it to F1 without his famous name (same goes for Piquet Jr.), but at least he went through the appropriate feeder series.

        Yes Jose Maria Lopez was a backup driver for Renault for a few seasons, and they thought so highly of him that they not only never gave him a race seat, but let him go. And yes, he won a GP2 race 5 years ago, but he hasn't driven an open wheel car in years, let alone raced one.

        You can't tell me you think Jose Maria Lopez is a better choice than Fisichella (no, I'm not a Fisi fan, I actually detest the guy) who is actively looking for a drive next year and has recent experience in some of the top teams in F1.

        Pay drivers are a bad thing for racing, I know its a fact of life these days, that doesn't make it good.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Washed up huh? You follow the guy's career? You've seen him race? You're a professional at evaluating drivers?
        • 5 Years Ago
        This isn't freaking INDYCAR, man. Noone's discounting engines, chassis, etc. USF1 must buy the engines, build their chassis, and sign drivers. Funny, I doubt you were calling BS when Campos signed Senna. They anticipated sponsorship to flow in because of his name, too.

        Your comments are suspect, sir.
      • 5 Years Ago
      1 driver down, 1 to go and 46 days until the lights go out in Bahrain ... They've done a lot but still have a long ways to go.

      Good Luck USF1!
      • 5 Years Ago
      "initially said it wanted to field American drivers, in the end it comes down to financial backing for USF1 and the other three teams slated to join the grid this year."

      And most importantly, no American driver currently holds a super license required by the FIA to race in F1.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I doubt Speed has the cash to still be holding a license.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Scott Speed? Im happier with Lopez, but hes american and with a super license.
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