A 1-3 finish in the Hungaroring feature race, combined with a rare non-score for points leader Giorgio Pantano, has given Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna renewed hope of claiming the GP2 Series crown.

Senna has been a threat to Pantano from the start of the season, despite falling away in the title race as the Italian racked up three straight feature race wins, but Saturday's result allowed him to halve the 15-point pre-race deficit after rising from eighth to take full advantage of Pantano's misfortune.

Senna's race got off to the best possible start as he vaulted four places before the race was two corners old, crucially getting ahead of tardy polewinner Romain Grosjean where Pantano was edged back by the Frenchman. The Racing Engineering driver's next attempt to pass Grosjean and close the gap to Senna and the three cars ahead of him then ended in a spin after being clipped by the ART machine as it returned to the track after a moment at turn four.

"We made a great start and moved up," Pantano reflected, "I passed Grosjean as he made a mistake, but he hit me in the back, this caused me to spin and I found myself at the end of the field. I kept pushing, but no more was possible."

Senna, meanwhile, consolidated his position despite struggling for grip and then, benefiting from a better set of tyres, moved up to third when Vitaly Petrov retired in the pits.

"I'm really pleased with that," Senna enthused afterwards, "Eighth on the grid was my lowest starting position for a Saturday race this season - and it was probably the worst place for it to happen because this is such a tight track and overtaking is so difficult - but I got good traction off the line and was able to pick up the slipstream from at least three cars on the run down to turn one.

"I opted for the outside line and swept past Mike Conway, Giorgio Pantano and my team-mate in one move. After that, I struggled a little bit on the first set of tyres, but the team called me in at exactly the right time and the car felt much better balanced on the second set. After that, I just focused on looking after the car and keeping the tyres in good shape. It was one of those days when I simply had to get as much as I could from the race and really don't think I could have done any more."

"Everybody was already telling me before that 'you'll have to wait for the next race' but, to be fair, I know that anything can happen - this is a difficult circuit, this is a difficult race. I just had to collect the points. I knew that Romain and Giorgio weren't in the points, so this weekend is a very important weekend for the championship. I'm closer to Giorgio.

While Senna has been an ever present towards the head of the points, however, di Grassi's rise to the role of challenger is more remarkable given that he had passed up on GP2 to become a Renault F1 development driver, and only returned to the series to replace Ben Hanley at Campos Racing from Magny-Cours. An immediate string of podiums pushed him up the points table, and victory in Hungary cemented a place in the top three for the first time this year.

"The win was very close in Silverstone and then lost five laps to the end, it was okay in Hockenheim in race two also if I didn't have small engine problems, so I had three second places and this win was what was missing for me," di Grassi commented, "These ten points are really important for me at this stage of championship, and also for my future."

The Brazilian played down suggestions that he had made another storming start, claiming instead that he had been luckier with where he was on the road at turn one.

"The start was not so good," he insisted, "I looked at a video after the race and it looks like Andi and Vitaly had a really good start, but I was maybe better positioned for the first corner, Andi went a little bit wide and I could take the lead there.

"After that, it is very difficult to overtake, so I thought to myself that my car was quite good, and all I have to do is not make a mistake with Andi behind me. I was very quick in the last sector, which is a very important part - and more or less the only place you can overtake - so I just tried to concentrate and take one lap after another."

Having finished as runner-up to Timo Glock last season, di Grassi wasn't too eager to return to GP2 after missing three double-headers, and admits that he is as surprised as anyone to find himself in title contention.

"When I came back, I wasn't expecting to do anything in the championship," he confirmed, "I missed three races so, without 30 per cent of the races, the championship is very difficult, but I'm glad I'm third. I already fought for the championship last year so, of course, I want to win it - everybody does. But my main goal is to do every race good and fight for wins, and do each race after each race.

"I'm quite a lot behind Bruno and Giorgio of course, so I'm not thinking about the championship at the moment: I'm just thinking about victories at every race, and that's it."

Senna, meanwhile, suggested that Pantano may now be suffering the sort of luck he endured at the start of the year, which allowed the Italian to open out his points advantage.

"For sure, it's very easy to get super-confident if you are leading the championship and have a good stream of results in the races," he admitted, "But, if you consider that I had bad races at the beginning of the year, and I had mechanical problems and... an unfortunate incident, without that I would be much closer. So it's very easy for you to get confident because people have problems and you're leading, but now he has problems and I'm catching up:.

"Last year, I had good performances in terms of speed in both Monza and Spa, and I think I had a good experience at the new Valencia track as well, so also it should be looking very good for me."

Racing Engineering, meanwhile, felt that its contender had been dealt a foul blow, even if Pantano had appeared at least equally culpable of the incident with Grosjean which took him out of the race for points.

"I am upset about Grosjean's move," team principal Alfonso de Orleans Borb?n fumed, "I know it was a race incident, but it left Giorgio without any chances in this race."

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