Giorgio Pantano was crowned GP2 champion at Monza despite two conservative drives and a penalty that kept him off the podium of either race.
Davide Valsecchi and Lucas di Grassi took the two wins, while Bruno Senna – who had entered the weekend with a shot at overhauling Pantano – only managed to hang on to second in the championship by a single point.
The fight for the runner’s up position, perhaps magnified in importance given F1’s apparent lack of interest in Pantano, went to the wire with Senna, di Grassi, Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado separated by just four points.
Sunday’s sprint race, Durango’s Italian driver Valsecchi delighted his home fans by shrugging off two horrible crashes earlier in the season to take his first GP2 victory.
Starting from pole position on the reversed and very wet grid, he lost places to Roldan Rodriguez and Jerome d’Ambrosio almost immediately after a problematic start.
However D’Ambrosio went straight on at the first chicane, allowing Valsecchi to re-take his place by the end of the opening lap.
Senna was the next to spin, ending up in fourth after he got his car to point the right way once more. But the wet track was about to claim di Grassi, who slammed into the back of Trident’s Mike Conway, causing Senna to spin again as he tried to keep clear of the accident.
At the front, Rodriguez established a lead of nearly three seconds – but Valsecchi hunted him down as the track began to dry. It took him until lap nine to regain the lead after which, with track conditions improving, he was able to stay out of trouble and claim a nine-second victory.
Rodriguez finished second, Grosjean third and Maldonado fourth. Pantano was fifth after an extremely conservative drive and D’Ambrosio took the last point.
In the feature race on Saturday di Grassi fought off Maldonado to claim victory, taking the top spot after race leader Pantano had yet another run-in with the stewards – this time a drive-through for crossing the pit lane white line.
However Pantano, arguably the most successful driver in the series’ history, claimed the championship title from tenth place after Senna failed to close the lead between them.
The race started behind the safety car after heavy rain soaked the track on Saturday afternoon. This allowed Pantano to control the start and to beat di Grassi into the first chicane.
Behind the pair Sebastian Buemi, Maldonado and Luca Filippi fought for position, with Filippi the loser as he fell off the track following a duel with Maldonado.
The beneficiaries were Roldan Rodriguez, Romain Grosjean, Karun Chandhok and Senna who all got through into the points as a result.
Pantano was looking untroubled in the lead until the rain began to fall and the field pitted for slicks. He came in last but slid on the damp exit road as he left and crossed the white line for a drive-through penalty.
However Senna, stuck firmly behind Grosjean in fifth place, was unable to capitalise on his rival’s mistake. Di Grassi and Maldonado came in first and second, separated by less than a second, following a race-long duel.
After the race two further penalties were announced – Racing Engineering’s Javier Villa was excluded from the sprint after causing a collision with Andreas Zuber and Vitaly Petrov at the restart of the feature race, and Durango’s Alberto Valerio was handed a 25 second penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
Final championship positions:
- Giorgio Pantano, Racing Engineering: 76
- Bruno Senna, iSport International: 64
- Lucas di Grassi, Campos: 63
- Romain Grosjean, ART: 62
- Pastor Maldonado, Piquet Sports: 60
- Sebastien Buemi, Arden: 50
- Vitaly Petrov, Campos: 39
- Alvaro Parente, Super Nova: 34
- Andreas Zuber, Piquet Sports: 32
- Karun Chandhok, iSport International: 31
- Jerome D’Ambrosio, DAMS: 21
- Mike Conway, Trident: 20
- Roldan Rodriguez, FMI: 14
- Andy Soucek, Super Nova, 13
- Davide Valsecchi, Durango: 11
- Kamui Kobayashi, DAMS: 10
- Javier Villa, Racing Engineering: 8
- Ho Pin Tung, Trident: 7
- Luca Filippi, ART: 6
- Adrian Valles, FMI: 5
- Yelmer Buurman, Arden: 5
- Diego Nunes, DPR: 3
- Sakon Yamamoto, ART: 3
- Carlos Iaconelli, BCN Competicion: 2
- Alberto Valerio, Durango: 2
- Ben Hanley, Campos: 1
- Adam Carroll, FMI: 1