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GP Week : Issue 20
TWO GP2 races of contrasting weather and interest at Hockenheim saw Giorgio Pantano extend his championship lead over main rival Bruno Senna. The Italian took pole on this, a circuit on which he always performs well, with the air of a man reborn of maturity and confidence. He lapped the German track a quarter of a second faster than second placed Romain Grosjean as the Frenchman aimed to get his championship campaign back on track. Saturday’s feature race was held under bright skies, but with the wind picking up and the clouds rolling in, many had predicted rain before the race’s end. But on slick tyres the field took to the track, with pole-sitter Pantano leading the way from Grosjean. The duo were simply in a class of their own as the Frenchman shadowed Pantano’s every move, lap for lap. And so it went for 35 laps. The pair were inseparable. But with just five laps remaining, the opening sector of the track was coated in a quick but heavy rain shower, making conditions treacherous for the slick-shod cars. Grosjean it was who appeared to have the upper hand in the conditions as Pantano, with a championship lead to think about, plotted his path carefully. As the majority of their rivals pitted for wet tyres, the leading duo ploughed on, with Grosjean taking the lead with four laps to go. Pantano would later admit he had considered it prudent not to contest the lead as, with two points for pole and the point for fastest lap in the bag, he was well aware that finishing second would still see him net more points than would Grosjean for the win. The Frenchman crossed the line over 10 seconds ahead of Pantano. Behind them, mayhem ensued as Pantano’s team-mate Javier Villa crashed out of third place under 200 metres from the flag and was joined by Andi Zuber in the same spot. Their misfortune handed the final podium place to Alvaro Parente, with Bruno Senna recovering from a number of spins to finish fourth. Grosjean’s desire to build up a lead however had seen him lap the FMS of Marco Asmer under yellow flags, and for his misdemeanour the Frenchman was handed a 25 second penalty, thus handing Pantano the win anyway, and relegating Grosjean to second. Sunday’s race was bright and dry, and pole- sitter Karun Chandhok was hopeful of a good result, having failed to score in every Sunday race held up to this point this season. He had to contend with the fast starting Lucas di Grassi who snatched the lead at the off, but the Indian was in superb form to retake the advantage and hold first position after the opening laps. With di Grassi dropping back, Pantano was progressing up the field until contact with Andy Soucek broke his steering and left him out of the race. Up at the front, Chandhok now had to contend with Andi Zuber, who shadowed the iSport driver for almost the entire 27 lap race. He just couldn’t find a way past however, and when Bruno Senna caught up to the duo, the Austrian had the threat of Senna to contend with too. They crossed the line in that order, with three seconds covering the entire podium. With Grosjean finishing fourth, Pantano, despite not scoring, had nevertheless finished the weekend with a greater championship lead than when he arrived, moving from an 11 point lead over Senna to a 15 point advantage. Grosjean still sits third, 14 points behind Senna with di Grassi six points off Grosjean in fourth. Chandhok’s win takes him to fifth, two points off di Grassi. 28