F1 News: Lopez at USF1, Alguersuari at Toro Rosso, Petrov and Sponsorship, Donnelly No Longer a Steward


What Happens When It’s More Driver Contract News

12:02am EST —The amount and tenor of F1 news seems to be increasing as the amount of days before the first race in Bahrain decrease.

USF1 to Announce Jose Maria Lopez on Monday:
In news from Argentina and Charlotte, it appears as though USF1 will finally make a driver announcement Monday.  As was orginally reported here at F1B in mid-November, Argentinian driver Jose Maria Lopez will drive for the American F1 team in 2010.  Now CorsaOnline is reporting local confirmation that the Argentinian government will announce the contract Monday, saying (in a translation, the original Spanish version can be found here), “the news will be made official on Monday in Argentina through the national government and the United States by the team USF1.
In more solid confirmation (the South American press has been touting this deal as done for months), the official USF1 Facebook page just updated its “status” with this tidbit of information, “Thank you all for your patience. The team is working very hard these days and we will have some exciting news to share! (think early next week…).”  Hopefully this announcement will help the team alleviate some of the more noted concerns by public figures in F1 that USF1 won’t make the grid in 2010. Reuters later published an article quoting Lopez’s spokesman Miguel Mattos saying, “Everything has been agreed and the official announcement will be made on Monday.”  All the signs point to official now.

Toro Rosso Finally Announces Jaime Alguersuari as Second Driver:
The team announced that Alguersuari would be Sebastian Buemi’s teammate after a considerably long time of waiting for official confirmation.  The release was not precisely the glowing recommendation usually put out in such situations, as team principal Franz Tost said, “this season, he [Alguersuari] will again face a steep learning curve, as all the circuits in the first part of the season will be new to him. Jaime’s appointment also confirms our commitment to bringing on graduates of the Red Bull Junior Team young driver programme [sic].”  Still, a signed and announced F1 driver’s contract is better than many of the drivers currently waiting in the wings.

Vitaly Petrov Compiles Huge Personal Sponsorship Package:
According to Bild, GP2 championship runner-up Vitaly Petrov of Russia is offering personal sponsorship in the neighborhood of 15 million euros ($21.2 million or £13.15 million) in order to receive a 2010 Formula1 racing contract.
The article (in it’s original German here) quotes Petrov himself as saying, “I want to test myself in Formula 1 at last with the best” and names Petrov’s sponsors as Sberbank and Gazprom.  Sberbank, as one might presume from its name, is one of the largest banks in Russia, “accounting for over a quarter of national banking assets,” according to their official website.  Gasprom is an energy company whose “major business lines are geological exploration, production, transportation, storage, processing and marketing of hydrocarbons as well as generation and marketing of heat and electric power,” according to their official website.
There are plenty of suggestions (even from drivers speaking with various teams) that many teams are expecting potential racers to bring more personal sponsorship with them than in recent years.  However, if he does have this sort of sponsorship money, one might wonder why a team has not already made a contract with him.  As the GP2 championship runner-up in 2009 and a driver who has raced with an Adrian Campos-owned team on and off for the past few years, he certainly looks to be a good fit at Campos, even if that would require two rookies driving for the team’s first F1 season.

Former Chairman of F1 Stewards Alan Donnelly Moved Away From Motor Racing:
According to Autosport, the FIA has shuffled Donnelly, whose most recent position was as the non-voting chairman of the F1 race stewards, to a position where “he will develop automotive strategies, with his focus being on the FIA’s mobility work and manufacturer policy agenda.”  This appears to be part of Jean Todt’s changes to the FIA, in what might be an effort to bring about the change generally and publicly requested by fans and pundits alike after Max Mosley’s tenure as FIA president.  I have suggested that his early reforms, despite concerns after Mosley’s endorsement, to indicate the sort of changes necessary.  This looks to be another such change, as Jonathan Noble suggests in his article, since Donnelly “was at the centre [sic] of controversy last year when the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) accused him of a conflict of interests due to actions he had undertaken in his other role as former FIA president Max Mosley’s representative at grands prix.”

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