Jose Maria Lopez looks set to have to turn his sights back to racing in his native Argentina after his manager confirmed that it was unlikely that he will find a place in Formula One for 2010.
Lopez, who has not raced a single-seater internationally since last competing in the GP2 Series in 2006, was originally named as USF1's first driver but, with the team heading into a financial abyss, turned his attentions - and a reported $8m sponsorship budget - to fellow newcomer Campos Meta. However, despite his backing, the Spanish team - now renamed HRT F1 following Jose Ramon Carabante's buy-out of original co-owner Adrian Campos - launched on Thursday without Lopez, instead naming Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok as its main drivers, and no reserve.
The Argentine's manager, Felipe McGough, confirmed that talks had taken place with HRT right up to the unveiling of its line-up, but admits that their failure had all but ended his client's ambitions of joining the F1 fraternity.
"After intensive meetings and negotiations with owner of the team now called Hispania Racing F1 Team, José Ramón Carabante, the addition of Jose Maria Lopez as tester and reserve driver for the Spanish team failed to be realised," McGough told Argentine news agency Telam
, "All possibilities for 'Pechito' in F1 have now been frustrated."
Lopez's bid to join USF1 had, according to McGough, been backed by F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, but foundered as the American team failed to get its much-hyped project anywhere near ready to join the grid at next weekend's Bahrain season-opener. Along with initial USF1 backer Chad Hurley, the Argentine was then rumoured to have switched his bid to Campos Meta - to the point where Senna's involvement was apparently being threatened - amid speculation that the two struggling teams were to merge in a bid to make the field.
Even after those stories were dashed, Lopez appeared set to play a part in the Campos/HRT programme, until, according to Telam
doubts were raised about whether his funding could be switched from USF1, even though he was released from his USF1 contract 48 hours before HRT's launch.
Lopez and his management team are expected to host a press conference in Argentina next week to give their side of the story.