Jose Maria Lopez: out of single-seaters for three years but set for USF1 drive

Jose Maria Lopez was dropped from Renault's driver scheme in 2006

Jose Maria Lopez was dropped from Renault's driver scheme in 2006

Anyone who saw Lewis Hamilton win the 2006 GP2 championship may remember Jose Maria Lopez, who finished tenth in the championship that year.

Despite not having raced single-seater cars since then, Lopez is now a front runner for a drive at the new USF1 team, whose headquarters he visited on Friday.

He has almost all the money in place to pay for a drive – but has he got enough experience and potential to deserve one?

Lopez’s two GP2 seasons were something of a let-down after the form he showed earlier in his careeer.

The Argentine driver came to Europe in 2001 and won the Italian Formula Renault championship the following year – beating Robert Kubica with 205 points to 188. He moved up to Formula Renault V6 in 2003 and won that title, narrowly beating Neel Jani.

Lopez was part of the Renault Driver Development programme which helped bring drivers such as Heikki Kovalainen to F1. He had a series of tests for the team in 2004 (when he also tested for Minardi) and 2006.

An obvious candidate for the new GP2 championship in 2005, Lopez joined the DAMS team and won the fourth ever race of the series, in Spain.

His results throughout the season were patchy and he ended the year ninth. But he comfortably beat team mate Fairuz Fauzy, who failed to score all year and is now tipped for a test driver role at Lotus.

A switch to Super Nova for 2006 brought no improvement – Lopez scored inconsistently and spun off while leading in the rain at the Hungaroring. Renault dropped him from their development programme.

Since then Lopez has competed in Argentina’s popular touring car championship, winning the title last year. He also did a few races in the FIA GT championship.

Under the circumstances you have to wonder if Lopez has been out of top-level motor racing too long to jump straight up into F1. But, as ever, money talks.

To his credit, he clearly has plenty of experience of several F1 tracks. And we should be wary of using how a driver faired in GP2 to predict what he’ll do in F1: Kamui Kobayashi finished 16th in the last two GP2 championships but has impressed since reaching F1.

Meanwhile Romain Grosjean, who won four races in the same period, is yet to distinguish himself in F1.

And if Lopez does get an F1 driver, maybe one day we can have a race at the awesome Potrero de los Funes

Do you think Lopez deserves a shot at F1 in 2010? Have your say in the comments.

Jose Maria Lopez pictures

Read more: 2010 F1 drivers and teams

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63 comments on Jose Maria Lopez: out of single-seaters for three years but set for USF1 drive

  1. zerogee said on 24th November 2009, 11:04

    Ha-hem. I feel a rant coming on.

    USF1 was founded by at least one shameless opportunist and that opportunist is Windsor. He has an excellent reality distortion field and a lot of people are being sucked into it. Just look at the way he has adopted an American management pattern of speech – he’s an Australian, just like me. Ding ding ding. Can anyone see the deliberate mistake here? Ever since he announced it, my Aussie-talking-rubbish-meter has been off the scale.

    There are too many compromises suddenly surfacing in his story and in the USF1 story and signing Lopez is just painful. I don’t have an issue with pay drivers (although I think mentioning the Senna/Schumacher pay drives is a little disingenuous – they’re hardly in Lavaggi’s and co.’s league as they both had real success behind them) but I draw the line at touring car stars.

    Lopez would complete seventeen laps of any given track before we got out of the pits, I’m sure, but he doesn’t strike me as F1 talent and if he has so much money and talent, why is he faffing about running around in Honda Civics? At least an international category would be believable.

    USF1 stinks and it’s a crime that Windsor and co. are probably going to make a massive mess of this and completely nail F1′s US coffin shut.

    I would love to be proven wrong and will run Silverstone naked if you lot will fund my ticket there. Okay, mostly naked. Okay, I’m really unfit, so if I ran it at all, it would be worth seeing my puke by Abbey…

  2. I would place experience and a young talent. In this case I would place Bourdais which represents american open wheel and a either Graham Rahal, Hildebrand, Edwards.

  3. I wanted so badly for the team to sign Takuma Sato. He’s out there. He’s fast. He’s experienced. He’s desperate to drive F1. HE HAS PERSONAL SPONSORS WITH MONEY!

    I just wanted to get that off my chest… Anyways…

    I don’t think Lopez should be looked down upon because he’s a pay driver. Peter Windsor made a good point that technically Alonso is a pay driver because a large part of Ferrari’s decision was the new Spanish bank sponsor. But while his resume is acceptable and he has knowledge of European tracks, where’s the Grand Prix racing experience?

    I hope the second driver isn’t this British rookie I’ve been hearing about. I certainly hope it’s a veteran driver like, say…

    Takuma Sato!!!

  4. F1Yankee said on 23rd November 2009, 8:41

    yeah, you’re the champ alright.

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