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US F1 Near Deal With Driver

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 20 2009
US F1 owners Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor flank driver ???? (Photo courtesy of US F1)

US F1 owners Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor flank driver Jose Maria Lopez. (Photo courtesy of US F1)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

Argentinian Jose Maria Lopez has an agreement with the US F1 to drive in 2010 contingent upon sponsorship. The Automobile Club of Argentina is backing the 26-year-old, who has not participated in F1 since working as a test driver for Renault in 2005 and 2006.

“It’s a new team, which faces this project from scratch,” said Lopez,”something different to my experience at Renault, where there was a structure with years of experience in Formula 1. But I was impressed by the commitment and professionalism with which they have approached this project .”

It’s conceivable the new American team may have two Spanish-speaking drivers. US F1 founder Ken Anderson listed Pedro de la Rosa, the longtime test driver at McLaren, as high on his list in an interview with the French publication Auto Hebdo.

There is no official confirmation from US F1 of an agreement with Lopez, who is known for his quickness, but for the occasional crash as well. He and his agents must close the deal with $8 million in sponsorship by next week according to reports.

“The agreement with the American team is done,” said Carlos Garcia Remohi, an official with he ACA who was speaking to the publication Corsa. “We have a week to finish collecting the budget.”

A winner at Barcelona in GP2 with the DAMS team in 2005, Lopez was twice in consideration for a major testing deal with Renault, but Heiki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet Jr. were chosen instead. For the past two seasons, Lopez has been driving in the touring car series in Argentina with an occasional foray into endurance racing. The Ferrari of Corsa Motorsports was retired after catching fire at Sebring in 2007 with Lopez at the wheel.

“There are several companies interested in participating in the project,” said Remohi. “We have a unique opportunity and hope that everything ends as we expect: with Jose Maria in F1, “he said.

Others on Anderson’s short list include former world champion Jacques Villeneuve, Peugeot sports car driver and former Renault test driver Franck Montagny and young American ace Jonathan Summerton.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 20 2009