GP2: Pantano retains series lead

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, July 20th, 2008

 
 

Giorgio Pantano has retained his GP2 championship lead in Germany this weekend – despite being overtaken five laps from the end of the first race and failing to finish the second.

In Saturday’s feature race he was the victim of an inspired late overtake in the wet from Romain Grosjean – only to see the ART driver penalised for overtaking FMI’s Marko Asmer under a yellow flag, meaning he was awarded the win.

In today’s sprint race he was forced to retire after Super Nova’s Andy Soucek spun at the hairpin, taking the series leader with him. However, following the German round of the championship, Pantano leads with 63 points, with Bruno Senna on 48 points. In third place is Grosjean on 34.

The feature race started with fine weather and a great start for both Pantano and Grosjean. Behind them a slower take-off from Andreas Zuber bunched up the field and allowed the leaders to establish a gap that would last for the remainder of the race.

Despite storming lap times from S̩bastien Buemi, Lucas di Grassi, Bruno Senna and Javier Villa all battling for third place, they looked to be home free Рuntil, seven laps from the end, a heavy rain shower caught all the teams by surprise.

Most drivers tried to hang on with dry tyres, with Senna among the few risking the 25-second time penalty for pitting and changing. Cars began to spin and fly into the wall – but Grosjean and Pantano ignored the rain, preferring to concentrate on their podium duel.

With five laps to go Grosjean had the best of the grip and took Pantano for the win. Alvaro Parente eventually crossed the line for third.

But post-race Grosjean was awarded a 25-second penalty for overtaking back marker Marko Asmer under a yellow flag to hand Pantano both the win and the fastest lap point.

In the sprint iSport International’s Karun Chandhok claimed his first win of the season despite race-long pressure from Zuber and Senna.

Chandhok made a strong start from pole but was unable to stop Lucas di Grassi from overtaking him at turn one.

Meanwhile Zuber climbed from 11th to sixth place in the space of the first lap, as Soucek spun at the hairpin and took out Pantano with him. A series of fastest laps put Zuber on Chandhok’s tail for a race-long battle.

Chandhok got his place back from di Grassi by cutting underneath him out of the hairpin, and looked to be facing another tough fight to keep it – until Pastor Maldonado shunted the Brazillian and took him out.

Before long Senna was up among the frontrunners, slowly building his pace until, five laps from the end, he was finally in a position to threaten Zuber. However he could do no more and was left the final podium slot as a consolation.

At times Britain’s Mike Conway must have been wondering why he bothered to turn up at Hockenheim. A crash in practice compromised his preparation then a spin in the closing stages of the feature race cost him a probable points finish.

He was subsequently handed a 10-place grid penalty for failing to slow down under a yellow flag meaning he was sent to the back of the sprint race grid. He went on to finish ninth, making the best of what had been a fairly gruesome weekend.

Speaking after the feature race, he said: “Unfortunately I was unable to complete the race due to a mistake I committed in the closing stages when, after a late shower, the track became extremely slippery.

“I’m sorry because, after a slow start that cost me several positions, I was recovering and there was a concrete chance to end up in the points zone. That would have been a nice reward for the many passes I completed.

“I’m glad for the quick pace I kept on a virtually unknown track, tasted for the first time in qualifying”.

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