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  • USF1 confirms Lopez for debut season
  • Fisichella, Heidfeld, were seat contenders - Sauber
  • Schumacher bites back during media questioning
  • Whitmarsh hints Heidfeld could be McLaren reserve

USF1 confirms Lopez for debut season
(GMM)  USF1 on Monday confirmed Jose Maria Lopez as its first driver for the 2010 season.

Lopez, 26, a former Renault tester and GP2 driver, reportedly comes to the new American team with sponsorship backing from his native Argentina and even the support of the government.

He returned from European single seater racing to Argentina in recent years, achieving success in domestic 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," said USF1 sporting director Peter Windsor.

With Lopez in attendance, his contract was announced by Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner at government house in Buenos Aires, and according to the Sun newspaper, former F1 driver turned politician Carlos Reutemann was also instrumental.

The British newspaper also said Reutemann, a winner of 12 grands prix and a member of the same political party (Partido Justicialista) as Fernandes de Kirchner, was a friend of Windsor.

Fisichella, Heidfeld, were seat contenders - Sauber
(GMM)  Peter Sauber has admitted that Giancarlo Fisichella was a contender to be Kamui Kobayashi's teammate at his Swiss team in 2010.

Sauber, 66, ultimately signed long time McLaren tester and Zurich resident Pedro de la Rosa, after speculation that powertrain supplier Ferrari had pushed hard for its reserve driver Fisichella to be appointed.

"We were not a B-team, but there would have been a certain dependency," he said in an interview with Tuesday's Motorsport Aktuell.

"If something went wrong with one of the race drivers, Fisichella would have been sitting in the Ferrari.  That would have been very bad for us," Sauber explained.

Sauber also admitted that Nick Heidfeld had been another contender for the second seat.

"He was with us for seven years," he said, referring to the 32-year-old German who looks increasingly likely to have to sit out the 2010 season.

"I wanted to make a new start, and that would not have worked out with Nick," Sauber added.

Schumacher bites back during media questioning
(GMM)  Members of the press tested Michael Schumacher's patience on Monday (interview).

Wearing silver overalls for the first time at the launch of Mercedes GP's 2010 livery, one journalist risked the German's ire by bringing up the infamous Rascasse controversy of 2006.

Asked how it felt to have Keke Rosberg's son as his teammate this year, after the 1982 world champion declared in Monaco that F1 is better off without a sportsman like Schumacher, the 41-year-old German calmly answered: "Good."

A follow up question then ruffled his temper.

Asked if he is returning to F1 in order to prove he can win without resorting to questionable tactics, Schumacher hit back sarcastically: "91 victories, seven titles, you win only in a bad way.  Absolutely.

"Yeah, you're right, I need to prove (myself) now," he snapped.

When told that the question was about the style of his winning rather than the cold numbers, Schumacher added: "Yeah, I know.  I did win all this in the manner in which you are trying to ask questions."

A major media topic in Stuttgart was the likely balance of power between Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, and whether the 24-year-old should be regarded as his countryman's number 2.

"The number 1 driver is the fastest one -- whoever is winning races," team boss Ross Brawn insisted.  "We'll give maximum support to both drivers."

That policy will be put into use for the first time next Monday, when Rosberg and Schumacher share the wheel of the new MGP W01 car on the opening day of the Valencia test.

Whitmarsh hints Heidfeld could be McLaren reserve
(GMM)  Nick Heidfeld may also be able to count McLaren among his options to remain involved in formula one in 2010.

Until Michael Schumacher's decision to return this year, the 32-year-old German had been hoping to secure the Mercedes GP race seat alongside Nico Rosberg.

Heidfeld, a veteran of 169 grands prix since 2000 but no wins, was also linked with moves to McLaren and Sauber prior to the finalization of those teams' race lineups, and Renault looks likely to put pay-driver Vitaly Petrov alongside Robert Kubica.

It was thought that moving to Mercedes GP as reserve driver was Heidfeld's last option, but now Martin Whitmarsh indicates there may be a similar opening at McLaren.

According to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, the Briton - who attended Monday's Mercedes livery launch in Stuttgart - revealed that Heidfeld was earlier in the running for the race seat alongside Lewis Hamilton.

"We think of Nick very highly, and are surprised that within the German media he is perhaps not so highly considered," said Whitmarsh.

With Pedro de la Rosa switching to Sauber in 2010, the track debut of McLaren's new MP4-25 has been put into the hands of test driver Gary Paffett.

Paffett, however, is staying with Mercedes in the DTM series this year, and although the race calendars do not clash, the 28-year-old is not thought likely to attend every grand prix in 2010.

Meanwhile, Whitmarsh denied that, with a driver lineup featuring Hamilton, Jenson Button and Paffett, and Vodafone as title sponsor, Woking based McLaren can now be considered an all-British superteam.

"It was not planned like that," Auto Motor und Sport quotes him as saying.

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