USF1 has lodged its entry fee with the FIA for the 2010 F1 World Championship, it has been confirmed - as the prospects for a return of the US Grand Prix to the calendar in the not-too distant future seemed to take a step forward.

There has been considerable scepticism about the likelihood of North Carolina-based USF1 actually making it to the grid for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix next March, but the news that the Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson-led outfit has paid a non-refundable sum of $440,000 to the sport's governing body to guarantee its place in the field should at least dampen some of the negative speculation.

That, new FIA Senate President Nick Craw affirms, is tantamount to a solid assurance that the Charlotte operation will be there in Sakhir in four months' time - and having taken a recent second tour of the USF1 headquarters in the heart of NASCAR country, the American told TV channel SPEED that in his opinion, the team will not be merely making up the numbers either.

"In the old days we never used to count an entry as being real until the cheque arrived and it cleared, and of course entry fees were not refundable," he explained. "If you want proof as to whether USF1 are going to be there or not, they sent their entry fee in about ten days ago, and the number is close to $440,000.

"I have taken a complete tour [of the team's factory] on two occasions and was very impressed. They're going to be there and they're going to make us proud."

Meanwhile, Craw similarly expressed his optimism and confidence that a resolution will be found that enables F1 to return to race in America after the US Grand Prix fell off the schedule in the wake of the 2007 edition - and with most recent host the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all-but ruled out of the equation as a future venue, it looks most likely, the two-time IMSA National Champion contended, that the event will be held around a temporary street circuit. The top flight's influential ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone has made little secret of his desire to see F1 cars tearing around the streets of New York one day [see separate story - click here].

"I think everybody from the commercial rights-holders to the teams and sponsors see the absence of a US Grand Prix as being a huge liability," acknowledged Craw. "There is only one circuit in the United States that has a licence to organise such a race - which is Indianapolis - and there is probably no deal coming in the near future with them.

"If you've seen some of the Taj Mahals being built for the F1 circuits these days, I don't see any budget for that in the United States, so I think it is more likely that we will see a temporary street circuit in or around a major metropolitan area - and there are two or three right now that are looking at that possibility. I am reasonably optimistic that could happen in the near future."