Jose Maria Lopez has become the first driver to be signed by fledgling outfit USF1 for their debut 2010 season. It will be the Argentinian’s first season in the sport, although he has won a GP2 race and tested a Renault F1 car in recent years.
Lopez said he was thrilled to be at the team, thanking the team founders Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson profusely for their faith in him.
“This is a truly memorable day for me, my family and the people of Argentina.
“I have been working towards this day for much of my life and I can’t thank Peter [Windsor] 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.”
Team founder Peter Windsor said he was delighted to announce Lopez as a USF1 driver.
“Securing ‘Pechito’ Lopez for our debut season has been a goal of ours for a long time,” he said. “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 1.”
Scepticism of the Argentinian’s true ability has been abundant in the blogosphere, as he failed to finish higher than ninth overall in GP2, and was forced to revert to racing tin-tops in his home country after no F1 team showed interest in him. But Windsor sought to repudiate any notion that Lopez was not good enough.
“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.”