Jose Maria Lopez has revealed that he will race for US F1 next season – if he can secure the rest of his sponsorship package.
The Argentine driver says he visited the new team's Charlotte headquarters this week to conclude a conditional deal with team founders Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson. In a statement on his personal website, Lopez indicated that he was close to finding the rest of the funding required to become the team's first confirmed driver.
"Up until now we have dealt with this over the phone, and given the progress, we went to visit the team personally and talk to Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson about it," said Lopez. "We verbally agreed to a deal that will be completed next week."
Windsor confirmed that he was very keen to finalize a deal with the 26-year-old. "Until we sign the contract we can't reveal any details about the negotiations," he told Lopez's website. "I can say I have a profound respect for Jose Maria as a driver and a person. He would be a great driver for out team because he brings knowledge and mileage in an F1 car, apart from the extra motivation because he never had the chance to race and show his skill.
"I would be very happy if he raced with us next year. He's not just another driver on the list. Jose is more than that. He is a driver we are interested in and we want him to be with us. Things can change very quickly in motorsport. It would be inappropriate for me to say anything else. We would like to sign the contract as soon as possible."
Lopez is a former Renault Formula 1 test driver, and raced in Formula 3000 and GP2 between 2004 and 2006. He took a race win at Catalunya with DAMS in 2005. He had to return to Argentina after the 2006 season, and has since raced in the popular TC2000 sedan series. He became champion last season and is currently leading the standings going into this year's finale next weekend. Lopez also contested several FIA GT Championship rounds in 2008 as part of the ACA Argentina Ferrari project.
The Argentine driver is not underestimating the task facing US F1, but is optimistic that it can be competitive. "It's a new team, facing this project from scratch, something different to my experience in Renault, where it was a structure with a lot of years of experience in Formula 1," said Lopez. "But I have been impressed by the commitment and professionalism with which they are facing this project. We have seen a windtunnel that's nearly real scale, something fundamental to the development of the car which hopefully I will be using in 2010."