Jose Maria Lopez, when he was part of the Renault squad
Argetinian Jose Maria Lopez has been confirmed as a driver for USF1 for this season.
However, the fact that the deal was announced by the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, shows the politics behind the move. His political connections, such as Carlos Reutemann, show that it was more his influence than his driving prowess.
When asked about the move, Lopez said:
“This is a truly memorable day for me, my family and the people of Argentina.”
“I have been working towards this day for much of my life and I can’t thank Peter and Ken [Anderson] enough for this opportunity. Of course a new F1 team faces many challenges but our goal is to improve with each race and build a foundation that will eventually see this team competing for wins and championships.”
Peter Windsor explained why they signed him:
“We’ve been following his career since he dominated the Renault V6 Championship in 2003 and we’re thrilled to have him on board as we return America to Formula One.”
“Lopez is a consummate professional and born leader. The most revealing thing about his character was how he handled the disappointment of not racing for Renault after three years of testing with them in F1. Instead of moping around and feeling sorry for himself, he returned to Argentina and totally dominated the local scene, winning 38 races and three championships. He became a major star as a result and, in turn, the Argentine nation – a country where F1 is second only to soccer – has got behind him.”
I’ve already said that I’m doubtful of Lopez’s driving ability, but I’d say he’s better than the last bunch of Argentinian drivers. Gaston Mazzacane was aeons off the pace in 2000 for Minardi and 2001 for Prost, and is well known for taking out his pit crew in Indianapolis 2000.
Then before that we had Esteban Tuero, in 1998 for Minardi. The only thing I can remember about him is his pit stop in, erm, Argentina.
Then we had Norberto Fontana, who is famous for holding up Jacques Villeneuve to try to help Michael Schumacher win the 1997 championship.
Hopefully Lopez is better than those lot, but I’m still doubtful whether he deserves the drive or not.