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GP Week : Issue 10
GIORGIO Pantano rose above the challenges of the Istanbul Park circuit to record his first pole position and race win of 2007, setting himself up with a healthy championship lead after the opening two rounds of the 2008 season. The Italian was in inspired form in Turkey, setting a pole position lap two seconds faster than countryman Luca Filippi achieved at the same track one year ago in the first generation GP2 car. In so doing, Pantano took his first two points of the weekend. On Saturday, he converted his pole pace into a commanding win, never looking troubled as he overcame a safety car period to reach the top step of the podium for the first time since Monza 2007. He was joined on the podium by GP2 Asia champion Romain Grosjean and former Istanbul GP2 race winner Andi Zuber. The duo had battled each other hard for second position, but Zuber, after losing an almost certain win in 2007 for an over-zealous move, appeared unwilling to risk throwing another good result away in Turkey. His point for fastest lap meant he made up an additional point however. GP2 Series safety had been called to task earlier in the weekend following the qualifying crash of Davide Valsecchi (see news story), but in Sunday’s race a bizarre set of circumstances led to Bruno Senna’s exit from the race, and incurred the fury of FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting. Adam Carroll, making a welcome return to the GP2 fold had found himself on pole for the second race, having finished eighth on Saturday, but despite getting a great start lost his clutch before the first corner and was a first lap retirement. That left Vitaly Petrov out at the front … although not for long as Grosjean blasted past and into a lead he would keep to the flag from Petrov and Buemi, the old GP2 Asia sparring trio. The main talking point of the race was the retirement of Senna, caused when a stray dog ran into the path of the Brazilian’s car. The incident left Senna shocked and angry, but thankfully, and more importantly, unhurt. Pantano meanwhile picked his way through the mayhem to finish a fine fourth and cement his position at the top of the early standings. The Italian leads on 24 points, five ahead of Grosjean with Buemi a further five behind the Frenchman. In the team’s title chase Pantano’s Racing Engineering heads the list on 27, with multiple champions ART Grand Prix second on 19 and Trust Team Arden third on 16. GP2: Pantano takes title lead, Senna has a dog of a day … 34