Giorgio Pantano has admitted that he was operating without a safety net as he chased this year's GP2 Series title, knowing that he had already had more opportunities than most to clinch what has, in the past, been a passport to Formula One. Despite that, however, the Italian also confessed that he would not wait forever to make a return to the top flight.

Having joined Racing Engineering for his fourth crack at the title, Pantano appeared to be the most complete driver in the field, although fate intervened to delay his confirmation as champion until the final round, fittingly on home soil, at Monza. Pole position on Friday extended his points advantage to 13, with just 18 remaining over the weekend, and Pantano appeared to be on course to take a fifth win of the season until an error in the final few laps of the feature - crossing the pit-lane 'blend' line as he rejoined after his tyre stop - left him to celebrate becoming champion from tenth place.

"It sounds great - the name Giorgio Pantano and the 2008 championship works together very well!" he smiled after the celebrations had died down, "I am so happy, but I'm a little bit worried about the race today.

"If I can take a podium tomorrow, then I can probably start to convince myself that I won the championship because, at the moment, I am a little bit angry about what I did at the exit of the pit-lane and because it was not possible to win the race. But the pressure is starting to go down now and, tomorrow, I have nothing to lose, just to gain. For sure, I want to make tomorrow what I didn't make today, minimum on the podium, and I'll try to do my best without taking any risk and do a perfect race."

Having tasted life in F1 with Jordan in 2004, albeit in less than satisfactory circumstances, Pantano has been chasing an opportunity to return, and saw moving to Racing Engineering as his best, if final, opportunity. The F1 rumour mill, however, has been all about the man he beat to the championship, Bruno Senna, suggesting that Pantano's dream may yet be dashed.

"I am extremely happy because to get this title as it was my last chance to show what I am really capable of, and find a way back into F1," he confirmed, "The people are saying to me 'take the championship first, and then probably you have the opportunity'. Everyone who won this GP2 title went to Formula One, and I'm just waiting now.

"This year, they are calling me the daddy, or the granddaddy, but the granddaddy still wins races and wins the championship, you know? I am not 'the daddy' - I am still hungry, and I still want to show what I can do. They need to look to what I am doing! I'm not waiting for [F1 for] long, but I'm waiting a little bit, because I have to focus on my future, my career, because I cannot live without anything."

Having raced for Super Nova, Fisichella and Campos in the first three years of GP2, Pantano was keen to find the key to unlocking the title before it was too late, and found just that by teaming up with Alfonso d'Orleans Borbon's Racing Engineering outfit. The partnership was one borne out of mutual desire to claim success both felt had passed them by in previous years, and proved to be driving force in lifting the Spanish squad to the front of the pack.

"I have to really say thanks to the entire Racing Engineering team, especially to the mechanics, because, during the entire year, we had no mechanical problem whatsoever," Pantano acknowledged, "That means that the team was working very hard and seriously, and we shared the same big goal of winning this championship.

"I think, if we are going to look at my four years in GP2, with the other teams I was always on the top but there was just some small problem. This year, we were just more consistent because, mechanically, the team was working perfectly - if it was going well in Valencia, in Spa and here, then maybe I would have won seven races. Apart from that, I was always on the top.

"I cannot say I made a difference this year just because I have more experience, because there are also other drivers who were with me in the past. We have to say thanks to Racing Engineering for that, and for the people who are working for them - that's the only difference.

"I think they are serious because of the job they did at the start of the year, going to the seven post rig and to the wind tunnel. It was a very good job because, when we went to the start of testing at Paul Ricard, we had a car already in a perfect set-up and a perfect condition, and it was not difficult to fix the small problems we had at the mid-season test at Paul Ricard. We just started with that car and made a small change each weekend. That means they are working hard, they are working seriously, they are working tough and they did a good job, because they know what to do.

Pantano was a frontrunner from the opening round of the championship in Barcelona, finishing fourth and third in the first two races, and it didn't take him long to gain his first win as he came out on top in the feature race at the next round in Turkey, before taking more points with a fourth place in the sprint. A disappointing weekend in Monaco - where accidents meant that he failed to score - preceded a run of three feature race wins in three race weekends - at Magny-Cours, Silverstone and Hockenheim - which put him firmly at the top of the table.

Whilst Hungary could only produce a fifth place finish in the sprint race, it seemed as though Pantano would be back on top in Valencia when, after starting from pole, he dominated the feature only to robbed of victory when he - and several others - ran out of fuel on the last lap. He refused to let it get him down, however, and secured fourth in the sprint from 14th on the grid.

Belgium produced more frustration as another potential win was lost to an engine management glitch and then exclusion as his recovery ended in contact with Lucas di Grassi, but Pantano bounced back on home soil, extending his pre-race advantage with pole to all but secure the title.

"I have enjoyed being with Racing Engineering, as it was like a family for me and we all have such a good relationship together," he reflected, "It is actually strange that the season is over and we won't race together anymore - I will miss them.

"The year has been great, and I enjoyed my battles with Romain, Bruno and all the others. We had great races, although my highlight is definitely the one at Silverstone. It was a great season for my team and me."