GP2: Senna closes in on Pantano’s lead

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, August 3rd, 2008

 
 

Giorgio Pantano remains GP2 series leader following the Hungarian round of the championship – but Bruno Senna made up ground and is now hot on the Italian’s heels.

Bruno Senna earned himself a pair of third-place trophies in Hungary

Bruno Senna earned himself a pair of third-place trophies

Senna scored a pair of third places, while Pantano crashed out of the points in the feature race and made little impression in the sprint.

Lucas di Grassi’s victory in race one also helped him close the gap on the leaders. He now sits in third place in the championship, despite not having competed in the first six races of the season.

His first win of the year came after he took the lead from slow-starting pole-sitter Romain Grosjean at the first corner with support from team-mate Vitaly Petrov.

He held on despite race-long pressure from Andreas Zuber to take the victory by just 0.7 seconds. Third place went to Bruno Senna.

Pantano came away empty-handed after overreaching himself trying to catch Grosjean. Trying to overtake on the outside around turn 4, he collided with the Frenchman and spun, being forced to restart from the back of the field.

Grosjean fell into the pits to change a flat tyre, giving Mike Conway the opportunity to pass Karun Chandhok and get himself up to fifth.

Early pitstops meant that by lap 15 it was a straight fight for the chequered flag. Di Grassi and Zuber led the charge, with Senna, Conway and Buemi following behind.

But Conway lost places to Chandok and Maldonado, staging a fine recovery from the legacy of his Friday crash, leaving the Trident driver to finish in his qualifying position of sixth.

The final order was di Grassi, Zuber, Senna, Chandhok, Maldonado, Conway, Buemi and Soucek who took the race two pole position slot. Grosjean was handed a 10-place grid penalty for the sprint race after stewards ruled his collision with Pantano had been avoidable. Super Nova’s Alvaro Parente was similarly penalised for overtaking under a yellow flag and causing an avoidable crash with Conway’s Trident team-mate Ho-Pin Tung.

Any hopes di Grassi might have had of repeating his win in race two disappeared early on, when he made a rash overtaking attempt on third-placed Conway on turn two of the second lap and sent him spinning off the track.

The Briton rejoined the race well outside the points and di Grassi eventually slotted in behind him after serving a drive-through penalty as punishment for the incident. The pair contested 11th and 12th until late in the race, when the Brazilian made a clean overtake. A retirement further up the field eventually gave them 10th and 11th, and di Grassi took a point for the fastest lap.

Meanwhile, at the front, Soucek made a clean getaway from pole and led from Buemi until a mistake under braking on lap 12, running wide at turn 12, handed the lead to the Arden driver.

After that, Buemi never looked troubled on his way to the win – but Soucek found himself being sucked back into trouble. First Maldonado caught him, but the Venezuelan’s engine began spitting liquid and vapour, before suddenly cutting out with just three laps left.

The patient Senna avoided the rapidly slowing Piquet Sports car and cruised up to the back of Soucek with a lap left in the race. He made his overtaking move on the final corner of the race and the cars entered the start-finish straight almost side-by-side – but the line came too soon for Senna and Soucek survived to take second place.

Sakon Yamamoto drove a fairly solitary race to achieve an inoffensive fourth place and his first GP2 points, while behind him came Racing Engineering team-mates Pantano and Javier Villa.

Villa had appeared to let his championship-chasing colleague past, but Pantano was unable to take advantage by setting off in pursuit of Yamamoto and instead spent the rest of the race with Villa glued resentfully to his rear wing.

The results meant that Pantano retained his lead over Senna in the championship standings – but only by the slim margin of seven points, 65-58. di Grassi is now third on 39, with Grosjean on 36 and Buemi on 34.

In qualifying, Grosjean had claimed his first ever pole after beating Zuber and di Grassi by less than a tenth of a second.

Zuber was the early leader but di Grassi took advantage of a quiet track during the first pitstops to put his Campos Grand Prix car at the top of the standings.

As the session continued, these two faced tough competition from series leader Pantano and Chandhok in a thrilling four-way battle.

Grosjean was putting in field-beating first- and second-sector times, but was constantly frustrated by the last corner, where he repeatedly got himself off-line. But, with just three minutes to go, Chandhok spun at turn 12.

Grosjean, given the chance for a final run, put his car on pole. Conway, driving for Trident Racing, started sixth.

Top of the timesheets during free practice was Zuber, but his Piquet Sports team-mate Maldonado hit the barrier at turn 8, leaving his garage with the prospect of rebuilding his car for qualifying.

Close behind Zuber were Pantano and di Grassi, with Grosjean, Chandhok and Petrov all within two tenths of his time.

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