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Pantano paces Valencia practice.

Giorgio Pantano gave one of Spain's GP2 teams the ideal start to its second 'home' round this season by claiming the fastest lap of free practice in Valencia.

The Italian veteran, driving for Racing Engineering, waited until the last lap of the session at the new street circuit to pip Alvaro Parente and Karun Chandhok, as the pace picked up throughout.

The points leader's last lap stopped the clocks at 1min 47.340secs to go half a second quicker than his nearest rivals, with all three drivers pushing Andreas Zuber down to fourth. Zuber had battled for fastest lap for most of the session with Piquet Sports team-mate Pastor Maldonado until the Venezuelan hit the wall at turn 14 with five minutes to go, removing his rear wing before pulling up next to the bridge.

The start of the session had been briefly delayed for a moment's silence for the victims of the recent airport tragedy in Madrid, but the sound of 25 engines soon filled the air as Zuber led his rivals on track. Bruno Senna was the only man not to make it out on time after stalling at the exit of the pit-lane, with the iSport team having to push the Brazilian back to work on his car before finally releasing him eight minutes into the session.

Zuber quickly set the fastest lap, but the times were tumbling as Romain Grosjean, Maldonado and Luca Filippi swapped top spot between them as they looked for the edge on a dusty circuit. Carlos Iaconelli, however, went beyond the edge as he tripped over a kerb and ran backwards into the wall, prompting the marshals to bring out the red flag 15 minutes into the session.

The teams took full advantage of the downtime to work on their cars, with Maldonado first back on track when the session re-opened, trying to top his team-mate's best effort before his own meeting with the wall.

With the closing minutes blighted by a yellow flag area as a result of the accident, there was little chance to improve lap times until the final minute of the session. Pantano, however, took full advantage and drove a measured lap to take top spot, but with Zuber, Lucas di Grassi, Maldonado, Jerome d'Ambrosio, Grosjean and Filippi just outside of the top three positions, qualifying could yet throw up some surprises.

Related Pictures

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Giorgio Pantano and Alfonso de Orleans Bourbon - Racing Engineering [pic credit: GP2 Series Media]
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