GP2 Series champion Giorgio Pantano should be given another chance to show what he can do in Formula One, according to the man who guided the Italian to the feeder series title this year.

In line with comments made by out-going champion Timo Glock and others - although not necessarily agreeing with McLaren boss Ron Dennis - Racing Engineering owner Alfonso de Orleans insists that Pantano has what it takes to deserve a second shot at the top flight, having seen off Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi to claim the GP2 crown in a tense finale at Monza ten days ago.

Pantano took four wins in the course of the season, and was denied more by a combination of misfortune and the odd mistake, but had a comfortable twelve-point cushion over Senna after clinching the title with one round to go. The Italian, however, has 'previous' in Formula One, with many preferring to remember his difficult season with Jordan in 2004 rather than what he has achieved since then.

"Giorgio deserves the chance to do F1 next year," de Orleans maintained in an interview with Crash.net Radio, "People say 'ah, but he's too old', but there are drivers much older than him in F1. Of all the drivers we've had [at Racing Engineering], the only other that I would say was in [Pantano's] league was Justin Wilson - who went to F1. Okay, Justin didn't get a proper chance, but Giorgio is just like him.

"He knows how to work a team, how to be professional. He knows how to give the right feedback, which is very important for the engineers to do their work properly, and he's really quick. So I see no reason for F1 teams not to take him. Considering some of the drivers they have got, Giorgio is much faster than them...."

Rightly or wrongly, Pantano also appears to have earned a reputation for being difficult to work with, but no-one at Racing Engineering would agree with that assessment.

"I have to admit that a lot of people told me 'oh, Giorgio, he's so complicated and all that....', but either he's changed or people are making that up, because we've had a Giorgio that's been extremely co-operative, extremely professional," de Orleans continued, "I'm not his manager, so there's no reason for me to put all flowers on him, but the reality is that he's very calm, very professional, and gets things done. He sits for hours and hours with the engineers to get these things done, and is absolutely stunning at setting up cars, working with people and putting the team at ease. He really is F1 material, so either he's changed or people are trying to make excuses for mistakes they've made."

The authoritative Spaniard was quick to point out that Pantano brought more to his squad than the experience of several years in F3000 and then GP2, and that he had blended seamlessly with Racing Engineering's technical team as both sides focused on landing a title they felt had unjustly eluded them in the past.

"Our engineers had a really good idea of what we wanted to do with the car so, when Giorgio came, they actually worked very well together - let's say it was a good co-operation between the sides," de Orleans explained, "Yes, Giorgio has this tremendous experience, but what he brought the most was sheer out-and-out speed. The guy was absolutely incredible - whenever we needed to get the pole position or he needed to get the win, that's where he would shine, absolutely shine. He was fantastic for that.

"The bonus points for pole and fastest laps, and the run of feature races wins in the middle of the season, had a lot to do with [our success], but he also threw away some points, which was a pity. Overall, though, the guy is extremely talented and was able to take out what was needed at the time it was needed - the poles, the fastest laps and the wins... You couldn't have won a championship without a guy who was doing that."

Despite his boss backing him up, however, Pantano is widely expected to become the first GP2 champion not to land an F1 seat the following season, a fact underlined by Dennis' claim that this year's GP2 field lacked talent. de Orleans, however, disagrees.

"GP2, at the moment, has the highest level, so it was unfortunate that Ron Dennis came and said the field wasn't good or whatever," he insisted, "That field was fighting against one of the strongest guys in Giorgio Pantano. The field was fantastic.

"Don't forget that, last year, in an inferior car, Giorgio was giving headaches to Timo Glock, who happens to be in F1 now. Also, when Lewis [Hamilton] was there [in 2006], Giorgio was again doing some good work with a very inferior car, so.... What I am trying to say is that the 2008 field was very high and that the others didn't win was unfortunate, but maybe Giorgio was just too strong. You could argue that maybe he shouldn't have been there, and then Bruno Senna would have been able to show that he is able to win, but how many times was Ron Dennis in the GP2 paddock? None..."

Such had been Pantano's hold over the series mid-season- where he reeled off three successive feature race wins at Magny-Cours, Silverstone and Hockenheim - that team was able to take both his exclusion from the Spa-Francorchamps sprint round and his mistake while leading at Monza in its stride.

"Yes and no," was de Orleans response when asked if he had been worried by the incidents, "We were always eleven or 13 points ahead and, when you are that far ahead, what happens is that you are a bit more relaxed, obviously, than the person in second position. So, I have to admit that we weren't that worried.

"We were more concerned about something going wrong mechanically - but it didn't. We were more worried that we couldn't give Giorgio the car to win the championship by us making a mistake but, when that didn't happen, it was what gave us [the title]. We had 100 per cent reliability on our cars which, if you think about it, is absolutely fantastic.

Although his pre-season ambition had been to win both the team and individual championships, de Orleans refused to criticise Pantano's young team-mate, Javier Villa, for failing to contribute as many points as his talent had suggested might be possible.

"Javi contributed enormously to setting up the car, I have to admit that," the team boss stressed, "He knew what he wanted and helped to make the winning car that we had this season. The problem, I think, is that being as young and as experienced as he is, and having a Giorgio Pantano next to him - and leading the championship - he was probably pressured into performing at a level above what was expected of him. In reality, all we wanted was for him to get into the top three - and he was perfectly capable of doing that. I just think he put too much pressure on himself.

"What's important is that I still think he's very talented, and I still think he's got what it takes to win in GP2. But he's still young and I think, maybe, we put him into GP2 way way too early. Having said that, I sincerely hope to see him back in GP2 next season."

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