After the antics of both Valencia and Spa-Francorchamps, the GP2 Series once again boils down to a final round shoot-out, with no fewer than four contenders still in with a mathematical chance of taking the 2008 crown.

Lucas di Grassi and RDD 'rival' Romain Grosjean are likely to be involved in their own little battle for third place, and the possible attentions of Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore, as they go into the Monza finale 18 points adrift of Giorgio Pantano, with 20 on the table and Bruno Senna also keen to claim his share. The top two have been waging their 'war' for much of the season, but it all comes down to two races - plus the bonus points for pole position on Friday - to settle the destiny of the crown.

Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Timo Glock all claimed the title on the last weekend of the season and progressed to Formula One, and that is the goal of both Pantano and Senna this time around, although the Brazilian appears to have the edge on his rival in that race. Many believe that the Italian has had his chance, running with Jordan four years ago, while Senna presents a more marketable and media-friendly face (and name), which is why he is being touted as a potential BMW or Toro Rosso pilot for 2009 and Pantano appears to be being ignored.

The veteran, now the most experienced and successful GP2 driver of all time, joined Racing Engineering for 2008 believing that Alfonso d'Orleans Borbon's team gave him the best chance of landing the crown and paving the way back into the top flight, but still finds himself having to prove his potential one last time.

The title could have been wrapped up last weekend in Spa, but fate intervened, restricting both Pantano and Senna to a handful of points that kept the battle alive to the final round. The pair have only added eight points between them over the past two rounds - including a brace apiece for pole positions - and that has allowed the two RDD drivers to retain an interest going to Monza.

In Belgium last weekend, the three strongest title contenders were all hit by penalties or misfortunes that saw the outcome of the season delayed, but Pantano, who was barred from even racing last Sunday, heads to his homeland - and his favourite track - with an eleven-point cushion over Senna, after the Brazilian failed to add race points for the second weekend in succession.

Pantano has won at Monza for three years in a row, and will definitely be the man most expect to have to beat this weekend. With a maximum of 20 points available for the driver who can take the pole, win both races and also set the two fastest laps of the weekend, the advantage would appear to be with the Racing Engineering man but, as GP2 has shown in recent weeks, nothing can be taken for granted.

With five victories to his name, Pantano has been regularly the fastest runners this season, but knows that Monza, as much as any other circuit, has plenty of ways of upsetting the applecart.

"Monza is my home track so, when I arrive there, it always feels very good," he admitted, "I turn up, I jump in the car, I go out on the track - it's almost too easy! It helps that each time I've raced there, I've done well and the way I drive the car is obviously suited to Monza: the way I brake, the line I take, how I hit the kerbs, which kerbs to miss.... For me, it's such a good feeling to be racing there.

"When I'm going through the Roggia corner, the two Lesmos and down to Ascari, I look at the trees that surround the circuit and I feel relaxed. On a sunny day, it's a beautiful place to be racing. But the speed is so high, and the downforce is low, so the car feels very light and it can still be quite scary approaching the braking zones, no matter how relaxed you are. I couldn't say what the key is to being quick there though. I just do what I do, and I'm always quick - so that must be the secret."

Simply finishing ahead of Senna in the feature race on Saturday should be enough for Pantano to clinch the crown, but finishing second to his rival would also do the trick, even if Senna managed to take pole and fastest lap as well. The iSport driver needs to make sure he finishes in the top four if he doesn't manage to claim a feature race bonus just to ensure the battle goes to Sunday, or sixth if he adds the extra points on offer - assuming Pantano does not add to his tally in the first race.

"Colliding with [Sebastien] Buemi was a disappointing way to end what had been a good race at Spa, but the title fight is still alive," Senna insisted, "I have quite a bit of ground to make up at Monza, but I was very quick when we tested in low-downforce configuration earlier this year and I'm confident we can end the year with a flourish."

The teams' championship is equally closely-fought, with di Grassi's Barwa International Campos outfit holding a tenuous two-point advantage over Senna's iSport International. Both teams have shown themselves to have potential racewinners in both seats, with Vitaly Petrov and Karun Chandhok respectively, while third-placed Piquet Sports should probably have won more than just the sprint event at Spa, with Pastor Maldonado and Andy Zuber on board.

Pantano's Racing Engineering equipe is fourth overall, just a point behind Piquet, thanks largely to the Italian's contribution. Double champion ART Grand Prix is not quite out of the reckoning for a third title, but would have to take the maximum 33 points on offer at Monza and hope that Campos and co fail to register.

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment