GP2 » 21 July 2008
Pantano extends GP2 series lead.
Racing Engineering found it could count on both its drivers as the GP2 Series completed its latest double-header at Hockenheim, as Javi Villa scored his first points since Istanbul to add to another race win for Giorgio Pantano.
Unfortunately for the Spanish outfit, the two drivers scored alone in separate races, although both had chances to finish in the points on Saturday and Sunday. Pantano added a fourth feature race success in fortunate circumstances before crashing out of the sprint, while Villa threw away a possible podium on Saturday only to bounce back and claim fifth in the second event.
Having qualified on pole for Saturday's pit-stop race, Pantano appeared to be the class of the field while the track remained dry. The Italian held top spot from the moment the lights went out until four laps from home, when a brief heavy shower passed over Hockenheim and caused chaos.
Having seen off the challenge of Romain Grosjean and Sebastien Buemi up to and through his lap 17 pit-stop, Pantano added to his points tally by racking up the fastest lap of the race prior to the rain's arrival as he and Grosjean pulled away from Buemi by around a second a lap, but could not shake the Frenchman from his tail.
Then, with five laps to go, the whole complexion of the race changed. As soon as the rain arrived, the drivers were in trouble as their slick tyres could not cope with the downpour. Several ran wide or spun, while others opted to pit to have wets fitted. Pantano and Grosjean fitted neither category but, with four laps remaining, the Italian committed his first mistake, running wide and allowing his rival to close in.
Although he kept the lead, it was only for a few seconds more, as another small error in the Mercedes Arena allowed Grosjean to sweep past. Mindful of his championship position and the tricky track conditions, Pantano decided not to try to regain the lead and, as he was so far ahead of the third-placed car, he could afford to take things carefully.
Having accepted second - and the trophy that went with it - however, the Italian was surprised to learn that Grosjean had been slapped with a time penalty for passing a backmarker under yellow flags, elevating the Racing Engineering driver back into top spot.
“We did a perfect start and a perfect race with a perfect pit-stop," he noted, "During the last laps, it started to rain - I tried to manage with the situation, but Grosjean was faster and I thought I had finished second, but this is a great victory. Thanks to the entire team for giving me a perfect car for yet another weekend."
Villa, meanwhile, started from eighth and was up to sixth almost immediately. He then battled with Karun Chandhok for nearly 20 laps before finally finding a way past. From there, his progress was rapid, catching and passing Lucas di Grassi on lap 34 and gaining two more places at the expense of a spinning Bruno Senna and Buemi to lie third entering the last lap.
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