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GP Week : Issue 16
GIORGIO Pantano leads the 2008 GP2 Series going into the half-way stage of the season, following his Saturday race win in France. The Italian, who failed to finish Sunday’s race after picking up damage in contact with 2007 team-mate Vitaly Petrov, benefitted from the retirements of his two biggest championship rivals in the first race to record an unopposed win and take the bonus for fastest lap. Those two main rivals, Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean, both fell victim to mechanical failures which, according to Senna, threaten to adversely affect this season’s title fight (see News.) The Brazilian’s weekend had started well as he had flown to his first ever GP2 pole on Friday, moments before slamming his iSport car into the wall and bringing out the red flag. He was joined on the front row by Pantano and the duo set off at Saturday’s race start with ease. The pit stops however saw Grosjean get in between them as his stunning in-laps and the speed of his crew gained him second spot behind Senna. The Frenchman started to reel the Brazilian in, finally passing him at the hairpin on lap 20, and soon after Senna brought his car into the pits to retire with a slipping clutch. But Grosjean was not to luck into this one, as soon afterwards he too slowed with hydraulics issues and brought his car to the pits to join his rival in retirement. All that left Pantano out front, ahead of series returnee Lucas di Grassi and Pastor Maldonado. Di Grassi’s first race back in the series had been superb, and he was a happy and worthy podium finisher. His team-mate Petrov took fourth, ahead of Zuber, d’Ambrosio, Chandhok and Conway. The Briton it was, then, who took pole for what ended up being a wet Sunday race. Although the rain had stopped by the time the race started, few chose to gamble on dry tyres. Senna however was one of them, and starting 23rd he fought his way up to third as the leaders started to pit for slicks. Then, disaster struck. His car again had a failure, this time a refusal to select gears, and he fell back to fifth. Up front however sat the clever Arden duo of Buurman and Buemi, but it was the Swiss driver who took the win after a bold side-by-side game of chicken leading up to the chicane with his team-mate. A delighted third was Luca Filippi, the ART driver taking his first points of the season. Di Grassi again took points in fourth with Senna fifth and Conway, who had stopped to change onto slicks, sixth. The weekend results leave Pantano at the top of the championship on 35 points, seven ahead of Bruno Senna on 28, with Grosjean and Alvaro Parente tied on 19. In the team’s championship iSport leads the way on 41 ahead of Racing Engineering on 38 and Piquet Sports on 35 points. GP2: Advantage Pantano as rivals hit trouble 28