Keep an eye on Guerrieri
After the Argentinean rumours surrounding Jose Maria Lopez’s alleged negotiations for a race seat with US F1, now one of his fellow countrymen is rumoured to be inline for a seat with one of the new teams. 24 year old Esteban Guerrieri may not be familiar to you, but he has forged a solid reputation in the junior formulae and has won races in just about everything he’s competed. He won the European Formula Renault championship in 2003, a championship also won by the likes of Felipe Massa, Augusto Farfus Jr, Scott Speed, Kamui Kobayashi and Brendon Hartley. He then stepped up to F3000 at the age of 19 with fellow Argentinean Enrique Scalabroni’s BCN team, consistently finishing in the points, picking up 1 podium, and finishing 7th overall. However, he couldn’t obtain a seat in GP2 and so dropped back down to F3 with Midland, where he ended 2nd in the Rookie of the Year standings behind Sebastian Vettel. In his 2nd year, he moved to Manor, took 2 wins and finished 4th overall, but still no GP2 drive.
He ended up forging a relationship with young team Ultimate Motorsport and despite not winning a race in his 1 and a half years in the series, is credited with turning them into a competitive force in the British F3 championship. In 2008, he moved with the team into the World Series by Renault, finishing 8th with a solitary win at Catalunya despite only joining the series at round 6. This season, he has stepped into Superleague Formula and has already taken 2 wins.
Back in his homeland, there are rumours that he is close to joining back up with John Booth by taking a race seat at Manor/Virgin. He has never driven an F1 car before, but he has the speed, credible results, plenty of junior series experience in a variety of series and a reputation as a good car developer from his time at Ultimate developing the Mygale chassis. However, what he lacks at this point is sponsorship – the rumours say he has to bring 6.5m Euros to obtain a race seat, or 1.5m for a test seat.
Obviously with this story only being carried back in Argentina, it isn’t a particularly strong rumour yet. It’s not the first such similar story – as well as the Lopez/US F1 rumours, the Portuguese Autosport magazine carried a story which said GP2 race winner Alvaro Parente was set to join Manor/Virgin, so all such stories are to be taken with a pinch of salt until they find their way into the mainstream F1 press. There are probably elements which are true – i.e. they’re in negotiations – but I doubt a deal is done yet. Other drivers linked with the seat include Anthony Davidson, Christian Klien, Lucas di Grassi, Max Chilton (as part of a deal which would see his father Duncan take a stake in the team) and Adam Carroll, although there have been less rumours surrounding the team’s driver choice than Campos and US F1.
But there is another interesting aspect to this – if this is true, this suggests Mr Branson isn’t pumping a great deal of money into “his” team, which must be concerning for the boys back at the team’s base at Dinnington and Wirth Research in Bicester…