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Dennis plays down Pantano chances.

McLaren team boss Ron Dennis has poured cold water on Giorgio Pantano's chances of breaking back into the top flight next season, despite the fact that every previous GP2 Series champion has graduated to Formula One

Improving on the success rate of predecessor F3000, the grand prix support series has delivered champions Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Timo Glock straight into F1 seats - with Williams, McLaren and Toyota respectively - as well as providing opportunities for the likes of Nelson Piquet Jr, Heikki Kovalainen - both of whom finished as runner-up in GP - and Kazuki Nakajima, but Dennis remains far from convinced that any of this year's crop deserve such instant promotion.

The veteran team owner's view adds further credence to the belief that Bruno Senna may have been a 'better' GP2 champion in 2008, given that Pantano had already had once chance to crack F1, with Jordan, in 2004. On that occasion, the Italian appeared unprepared for the top flight and, allied with claims that he was poorly managed, failed to see out the season. Ironically, the man who took over while Pantano was sidelined was Glock, who himself was left to work his way back into the top flight, via both Champ Cars and GP2, and took four years to do so.

The GP2 points table will show that Pantano was a worthy champion, finishing the season twelve points ahead of Senna, with four wins to the Brazilian's two, but the overall view may be clouded by two factors. Firstly, Renault F1 development driver Lucas di Grassi ended the year just a point behind Senna, having missed the first three double-headers but claimed three wins thereafter, and, secondly, both Pantano and Senna made hard work of trying to claim the title, managing just 17 points between them over the final three rounds.

There were mitigating circumstances and, in Pantano's case, three potential feature race wins - which would have taken his tally over 100 and his win count to seven - went begging in the run-in. But, if Dennis' perception that there just isn't the level of talent in GP2 this year is shared by the rest of the paddock, then the champion may struggle to join his predecessors.

"Exceptional talent in GP2 jumps out at you," the McLaren boss told reporters at Monza, "At the moment, there are some guys lacking a bit of experience that could do well next year, but I don't think there's anyone in GP2 that jumps at you as being a phenomenal talent at the moment."

Senna's case as a more worthy champion will be backed up by the fact that he is at least being talked about in F1 circles, with rumours that he could be on his way to any number of teams next season, Italian Grand Prix winner Toro Rosso and the improving BMW Sauber among them. It doesn't hurt, either, to have a famous surname.

"Of course, it is the feeder series, and some great drivers have come out of GP2," Dennis added, "There are some young ones who will maybe get better next year, just no-one who is really sensational. They have the odd good race, but no-one has been dominant."

Pantano, at 29, is four years older than Senna, and older still than many others in the GP2 field, and that too may count against him, even though he has shown his ability to help develop a race-winning car after turning both Campos, in 2007, and Racing Engineering this year into regular frontrunners. Not being talked about, however, is almost as bad as receiving a bad press.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Giorgio Pantano flanked by Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna at Magny-Cours   [pic credit: GP2 media]
Bruno Michel, the CEO of the GP2/GP3 Series. [Photo credit: Drew Gibson/GP3 Media Service.]
Bruno Michel, GP2 CEO. [Photo credit: Drew Gibson/GP2 Media Service.]
GP2 Series organiser Bruno Michel talks to DAMS team manager Eric Boullier at Silverstone [pic credit: GP2 Media]
GP2 CEO Bruno Michel [r] and Meritus Racing founder Peter Thompson [Pic credit: Meritus]
2008 Bridgestone e-reporter winner Guillaume Navarro meets GP2 Series runner-up Bruno Senna
Bruno Senna - iSport International   [pic credit: GP2 Series]
Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Racing Engineering, Italian GP2 Race 1, Monza, 12th-14th, September, 2008
Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Racing Engineering, Italian GP2 Race 1, Monza, 12th-14th, September, 2008
Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Racing Engineering Is Champion, Italian GP2 Race 1, Monza, 12th-14th, September, 2008
Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Racing Engineering, Italian GP2 Race 1, Monza, 12th-14th, September, 2008
Giorgio Pantano celebrates his 2008 GP2 Series title   [pic credit: GP2 Series]
Giorgio Pantano celebrates his 2008 GP2 Series title   [pic credit: GP2 Series]
Giorgio Pantano celebrates his 2008 GP2 Series title with the Racing Engineering team  [pic credit: GP2 Series]
Giorgio Pantano celebrates his 2008 GP2 Series title   [pic credit: GP2 Series]
Giorgio Pantano - Racing Engineering   [pic credit: GP2 Series]
Giorgio Pantano celebrates his 2008 GP2 Series title with team boss Alfonso d`Orleans Borbon and the Racing Engineering team  [pic credit: GP2 Series]
Bruno Senna - iSport International   [pic credit: GP2 Series]

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Boo - Unregistered

September 15, 2008 2:56 PM

Maldonado stood out for me - bit reckless, but only a couple of points off 2nd in the end. His driving style would look good in F1, in my mind. Other than that, di Grassi beating Grosjean after 3 less rounds will do his reputation no end of good. Senna and Buemi will probably be up for Toro Rosso seat, although Buemi has more F1 miles than Senna. Think Senna needs a year F1 testing, because he is still quite inexperienced as a racer, even if he has learnt quickly so far. As for Pantano, I think this has come too little too late, although the title remains richly deserved for both him and the team - maybe IndyCar beckons instead.



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