GP2: Pantano preserves lead through eventful weekend

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, August 24th, 2008

 
 

Lucas di Grassi’s Campos team is celebrating after his race two win in Valencia handed a double to the Spanish team.

Di Grassi followed in the footsteps of team-mate Vitaly Petrov, who took an unexpected victory in the feature race when leader Giorgio Pantano ran out of fuel within sight of the finish line.

In race two, the sprint, Di Grassi was also in the right place at the right time when Arden’s Luca Filippi, fighting for the lead with ART’s Romain Grosjean, had a coming-together with the Frenchman that landed him in the tyre wall.

Di Grassi took the opportunity to cruise past the pair and managed to hang on to the resulting lead for the rest of the race. Filippi was later handed a 25-second penalty that stripped him of his podium finish.

ISport’s Bruno Senna failed to make the progress he was looking for in the championship battle, despite the fuel miscalculation that left Pantano with no points following the first race. After getting up to fourth from ninth on the grid in the second race, the Brazilian put his car into the wall.

DAMS’ Jerome D’Ambrosio and Pantano, driving for Racing Engineering, finished third and fourth with the Italian taking away enough points to preserve his championship lead. DPR’s Diego Nunes scored his first points of the year by taking fifth, and Pantano’s team-mate Javier Villa was sixth.

Trident’s Mike Conway, currently the only Brit racing in the series, came eighth, a place ahead of team-mate Ho-Pin Tung.

The other driver to be handed a penalty was Chandhok, who receives a 10-place grid penalty for Spa-Francorchamps after he caused a collision with Vitaly Petrov, who also failed to finish the race.

In race one championship leader and pole-sitter Pantano ran out of fuel on his final lap after previously dominating the race, handing the win to Petrov.

The Russian finished just ahead of Piquet’s Pastor Maldonado and Grosjean. However title challenger Senna was unable to capitalise on his rival’s misfortune and finished ninth, drifting across the line on fumes, with scarcely more fuel on board than the Italian.

During the race Pantano had led almost every lap and had established a substantial lead over Petrov, leaving the rest of the field in his wake. By the time it was clear that he would be unable to finish his crew had already climbed onto the pit wall to cheer him home.

The race began with drama: while Pantano took advantage of the clean side of the track to make a quick getaway, Trident’s Ho-Pin Tung was pushed into the wall then bounced into the path of Kamui Kobayashi, leading to a safety car.

It was called in after one lap, allowing Pantano to start building his lead over Petrov and Maldonado. Early pitstops informed by the possibility of another safety car saw Pantano still ahead.

The battle between Maldonado and Grosjean in third and fourth finally came to a head on lap 27, when the pair collided at the final turn and Maldonado held the inside line. It looked like the finishing order had been established – until drivers began to run out of fuel, including both championship leaders.

As a result, Petrov was first to the chequered flag, 0.8 seconds ahead of Maldonado who was 4 seconds ahead of Grosjean.

Di Grassi took advantage of the misfortune of others to move up to fourth place after dodging past D’Ambrosio a few laps earlier. Sebastien Buemi finished sixth, with Andy Soucek and Luca Filippi taking the last points-paying positions.

Senna ghosted across the line in ninth, taking away no points and missing the chance to start the second race from pole. Pantano lost his point for fastest lap after failing to finish in the top ten, handing it instead to Maldonado.

Mike Conway’s win in the GT event that preceded the Valencia Grand Prix didn’t help him at all, after he retired from this contest on the second lap with a clutch problem. He was slated to start from the rear in race two. Trident MD Alessandro Alunni Bravi called the event “our worst day of the 2008 season.”

In practice Pantano had claimed the fastest lap (1:47.340) on his final lap of the session – half a second faster than his nearest rivals Alvaro Parente and Karun Chandhok.

He was able to translate this into a race one pole position during qualifying, seeing off Maldonado, Petrov and Grosjean on a day when his major championship rival Senna could do nothing better than eighth.

His fastest lap of 1:45.640 was set in the last minute of a nailbiting session in which he secured the pole by seven hundredths of a second.

Kobayashi put in the first sub-1 minute 50 lap but spun into the wall at turn five, losing a substantial amount of bodywork and bringing out the red flags. Later the same turn claimed another victim – Karun Chandhok, who spun in the middle of the track and needed a push start from the marshals to get going again.

With the track cleared Senna claimed second on the timesheets, but was soon displaced by Grosjean. The Frenchman spent the remainder of the session duelling with Maldonado and Pantano for pole position.

Pantano was the winner after Grosjean was held up by traffic on his final flying lap. Mike Conway came away from the session with ninth place on the grid.

Driver standings after Valencia:

  1. Giorgio Pantano, Racing Engineering: 71 points
  2. Bruno Senna, iSport: 58 points
  3. Lucas di Grassi, Campos: 51 points
  4. Romain Grosjean, ART: 42 points
  5. Sebastien Buemi, Arden: 37 points
  6. Pastor Maldonado, Piquet: 35 points
  7. Andreas Zuber, Piquet: 32 points
  8. Karun Chandhok, iSport: 31 points
  9. Vitaly Petrov, Campos: 30 points
  10. Alvaro Parente, Super Nova: 26 points
  11. Mike Conway, Trident: 18 points

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