GP2 Series team boss Adrian Campos insists that, had he contested the whole season, Lucas di Grassi would have been champion before the end of year double-header at Monza last weekend.
The Brazilian, who finished as runner-up to Timo Glock last season, had hoped to follow the German into Formula One for 2008 but, having been consigned to the role of test driver at Renault, was facing a year without competition before being coerced back into the feeder series. Although World Series by Renault frontrunner, and fellow RDD protégé, Ben Hanley started the year with the Campos team, it quickly became apparent that things weren't working out for the Briton, and he was replaced by arguably the only man in the field who could rival points leader Giorgio Pantano for experience.
Not that di Grassi was keen to return to a series where he felt he could only go backwards. Having finished second in 2007, and already missed the first three double-headers of the season, the Brazilian believed that he was on a hiding to nothing, but allowed himself to be persuaded into joining Campos, a team which Pantano had already helped take to the top of the podium the previous year.
His impact was instantaneous, taking three second places in his first four outings, winning his seventh and following that up with two further victories to end the season within a point of second overall, having carried a title shot into the Italian double-header at Monza. Along with the steady input of second-year team-mate Vitaly Petrov, the Brazilian's contribution was enough to take Campos to its first GP2 teams' title.
"Now we have won everything that we have competed in over the last twelve years, everything!" a delighted Campos commented, "I am very, very happy, and I am very grateful about everyone - the mechanics and the engineers, the two drivers.... I have to say thanks to them and thanks to all the people who believed in the team, and in me. This is very important for me to say."
Although he refused to give di Grassi sole credit for turning the team into a title winner in 2008, the former F1 pilot said that he was certain the Brazilian could have made it a double championship triumph had he been with the team from the start of the year.
"At the beginning [of GP2], we have to just be in the championship and, you know, sometimes you have to take the drivers you can take. At the end, though, the sponsors started to arrive, Alejandro [Agag] had confidence in me, as did Mutua Madrillena and then Barwa, and then, last year, we had the possibility to take the decision of believing in a very young driver with a lot of potential in Petrov and give the lead responsibility to Giorgio Pantano - and with exactly the same people as the two seasons almost.
"With these people, we started to win races with Giorgio last year and, with Vitaly, we have a fantastic driver with a lot of talent, a lot of talent. Then there was the arrival of di Grassi, thanks to Renault...
"In my opinion, di Grassi is the driver most in form in the championship and, with three races less [than his rivals], he was fighting for second in the championship. I'm sure that, with these three races, he would have won the championship one race ago. He only made one mistake, today, and missed second place, but he is a great professional driver, and a very nice person, who, in my opinion, deserves to be in Formula One."
Campos also paid further tribute to his workforce, having established a blend of nationalities that he felt would work well together and bring out the best in his whole operation.
"I had one idea when we started to work in GP2, that I had a lot of experience with teams where I drove - Italian teams, English teams...," he explained, "I was very sure that Italian people and English people are very difficult to work together and, with the French people, difficult too. With the Germans, it's possible, but I was completely sure that the British people and their method of work and the Spanish people can work together, completely sure. We are all Spanish, but the method of work arrived here with Chris Murphy - I told him he must bring the method of work of the English teams. It works - and works perfectly."