USF1 – the only one of the 13 teams in the F1 2010 field yet to announce either of its two drivers for the rapidly-approaching campaign – could be on the verge of naming the first of them, with former GP2 Series race-winner and ex-Renault F1 test driver José María López hotly-tipped to get the seat.
It has been rumoured for some time that López is in pole position to occupy one of the two available cockpits at the North Carolina-based newcomer, whose presence on the starting grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix curtain-raiser at Sakhir in mid-March remains the subject of intense speculation and scepticism.
Adding to such cynicism is the fact that whist he has competed successfully in GP2 with respected outfits DAMS and Super Nova, the Argentine has not done so since 2006, and in two seasons in the F1 feeder series failed to finish any higher than ninth in the title standings. Since then, the 26-year-old has plied his trade in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and predominantly in TC 2000, the Argentine touring car championship that he dominated in both 2008 and 2009.
It is understood that López's return to his homeland from Europe and the consequent halt in his career progression was prompted by a shortfall in funding, making it somewhat unclear as to how he has now managed to garner together sufficient backing – reputed to be in the region of $8 million, from the Argentine government, Top Race V6 series and Kwan company amongst other sources – to secure the USF1 berth.
He is known to have the support of former twelve-time grand prix-winner Carlos Reutemann, a close friend of US F1 co-founder and team principal Peter Windsor from their time spent together at Williams, and now a leading Argentine politician.
“Everything has been agreed and the official announcement will be made on Monday,” López's manager Miguel Mattos told Reuters