Jose Maria Lopez's place on the Formula One grid for 2010 could be confirmed within the next 24 hours, but not with USF1 as originally thought as rumours linking him to fellow newcomer Campos Meta intensify.
The Argentine was the subject of the last 'good news' to emerge from USF1's Carolina headquarters and, with increasing speculation that the Peter Windsor/Ken Anderson operation is faltering in its bid to join the motorsport elite, now appears set to take his valuable backing - estimated at $8m - to its Spanish rival. The driver's manager, Felipe McGough, confirmed that a deal could be struck as early as tomorrow [Thursday] - and could even bring the two struggling teams together.
“We had six hours of meetings with the investors of the USF1 and the new owners of the Campos Meta team,” McGough told Spanish radio station Cadena 3 Cordoba
, “We discussed the possibility of a merger but, most important, is that, whatever the outcome, Jose Maria is included in the project.”
McGough's suggestion that the two F1 hopefuls could bring their operations together was underlined by a subsequent referral to YouTube
founder Chad Hurley in an interview he gave to Argentina's Diario Hoy
newspaper. Hurley was apparently represented at the meetings by advisor Parris Mullins, following suggestions that he too was poised to switch his allegiance from USF1 to Campos Meta ahead of the 2010 season.
“Although the clock is running against us and anxiety is great, I think that, after the meetings, the outlook for Lopez is clearer,” McGough added, "Both Chad Hurley and [new sole Campos Meta owner] Jose Carabante talked for several hours to find a solution to the question of the budget of both teams. For us, this union is very important for the possibility that Lopez can run.
"We are doing everything possible and never took a false step. The economic difficulties encountered at USF1 mean that we must accept that their cars will not be ready for Bahrain. We moved quickly with FOM and, with the help of Bernie Ecclestone, this new possibility has appeared."
While Bruno Senna remains in possession of a Campos Meta contract, developments in Lopez's bid to graduate to F1 after several seasons racing in the national touring car series add another name to the list of potential team-mates which already contains the likes of Karun Chandhok and reigning Renault World Series champion Bertrand Baguette.
Chandhok is also among those being connected to the Stefan GP team currently waiting in the wings for an opportunity to join the field in Bahrain, but could be pushed out by the return of 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve [see story here
], while Baguette has admitted that he is not confident of securing the second seat at the Spanish-based Campos Meta operation after finding himself in a Catch 22 situation...
“F1 is my goal,” the Belgian, who tested with both Renault and Sauber in December, told dhnet.be
, “There remains a small chance to be on the grid of the first GP, but my budget is not enough [for the whole season]. The sponsors want a contract before they help me but, to have a contract, you need money. There are possibilities in the Superleague, IRL and GP2, but nothing is decided yet."