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GP Week : Issue 29
>>F1 INSIGHT T HE GP2 title has, since the series’ inception, been a relatively sure pass to an F1 seat. Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Timo Glock all jumped straight into F1 race seats after winning the GP2 title, with a number of their rivals joining them in the pinnacle of single-seater racing. GP2 was created to exist as such a ladder to F1, but in 2008 there are questions as to whether the champion, or indeed his rivals, will gain such an easy promotion. With the F1 driver market on a knife-edge as Fernando Alonso plots his 2009 movements, nobody is completely sure of where the openings will come, and if any seats do open up whether the 2008 crop of GP2 driver will get a look in. One man who knows the worlds of GP2 and F1 intimately is Enrico Zanarini. As Team Principal of the FMS International GP2 team, and one of the most respected Formula 1 driver managers of the last decade, there is perhaps nobody better placed to give his opinion as to how the latest crop of GP2 driver stacks up, and whether any of them have a decent shot of an F1 contract in 2009. GPWEEK: What are your feelings about Giorgio Pantano and his chances of graduating to F1 as GP2 champion? ENRICO ZANARINI: Giorgio was one of my favourite drivers. He drove for us in 2006 and I did everything possible to get him into the team again in 2008, but he decided to leave. He is a fantastic driver and he showed his speed and his capabilities this year in winning the championship. He can win many championships. Giorgio is one of the best drivers around. The problem for him probably is that Formula 1 probably will not want him because of his age and because he’s been there before. But certainly he deserves the attention of every manager. He’s a very good driver. Is he too old for F1? He has to fight this opinion. Of course, today Formula 1 wants new fresh drivers to come in. They keep drivers like [Rubens] Barrichello, [David] Coulthard, [Giancarlo] Fisichella, of course, because they have experience. But the opportunities for these guys are limited, and I can tell you they are! Age seems to have a certain effect on the team managers, because they are all looking for new talent. Let’s say the best way I can define Giorgio is that he’s talented, but he’s not new. That’s all. And unfortunately, and I say that because my business is driver management, but unfortunately this is what the managers have to fight against. But there’s no new talent that is better than Giorgio. How ironic is it that the weekend he finally won the GP2 title, a guy wins an F1 race who is almost a decade younger than him? I think it’s going to be difficult. Maybe some of the protagonists from this year’s championship will go for a testing role, but I still cannot see any other GP2 driver to go into a full-time Formula 1 job this year. Ron Dennis has made some statements recently that this year is one of those years where Giorgio is the only one, but he’s not new to Formula 1 and therefore will find it very difficult, not because of his talent, only because of his age. Let’s say you were managing him, where would you look? I would probably look elsewhere. That is the truth, because I know it’s going to be difficult for him. If he comes in, good luck 25