Giorgio Pantano has angrily claimed that Formula 1 has 'abandoned' him by overlooking him for a race seat in 2009, blasting as 'a joke' the fact that the only GP2 Series Champion in history has not been able to find a place on the grand prix grid.
The Italian's predecessors Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Timo Glock have all gone on to graduate to the top flight with Williams, McLaren-Mercedes and Toyota respectively, but there would appear to be no room at the inn for Pantano.
To rub salt into the wounds, Bruno Senna and Sébastien Buemi – two drivers whom he defeated en route to the feeder category's crown in 2008 with Racing Engineering – have both elicited strong interest from F1 teams, with the former now looking at other possibilities following Honda's shock withdrawal [see separate story – click here
] and the latter seen as almost a shoe-in for one of the two Scuderia Toro Rosso berths next year. Pantano, by contrast, has not even been offered so much as a test.
“I feel total indifference towards me,” he lamented in an interview with Italian motorsport magazine Autosprint
. “I read of Senna and Buemi but, really, what have they done?
“At this point, a guy in my situation must think that being a racing driver is not advantageous; doing another job would be better. Money is becoming the priority in order to race; talent doesn't exist anymore.
“I challenge anyone to have a CV as good as mine. I won two karting world titles, three European, three Italian, German F3, GP2 and was always at the front in F3000 – but now I don't have a seat in F1. Is this a joke?
“That's what it's like now – if you don't get in touch with people, no-one looks for you. I feel abandoned.”
At 29, it is understood that Pantano's age played against him in his bid to re-launch his stalled F1 career, but even more critical still, it is believed, has been the memory of his mediocre debut season in the highest echelon with Jordan Grand Prix back in 2004, during which he failed to score a single point – indeed finishing no higher than 13th in 14 starts – and was replaced following his home outing at Monza by Glock. Though memories in the sport may be famously short, first impressions, it seems, can still count for plenty.
“I would just like someone to let me test an F1 car,” the man from Padua urged. “Once the test is done, they'd tell me whether I could be a possible world champion or not. That would give me peace of mind.
“I just want a credible test, a real chance that puts me in the conditions of being properly assessed. The only person behaving fairly has been [F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie] Ecclestone. I called him a few days ago and after ten minutes he called me back.
“The only real drives still available are at Honda and Toro Rosso. Bernie told me that if anything moves, I'll be the first to know.”