The story of the 2011 championship season - once Romain Grosjean had strolled to a seemingly easy title victory - was the knife-edge fight for the runners-up position which came down to the wire in Monza.

Luca Filippi had hardly been expected to be a contender, let alone emerge as the GP2 'vice-champion', but a impressive string of podium finishes in the second half of the season saw him go from 9pts at the midway point to 54pts by the end of the season, pipping Jules Bianchi, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde to the second spot.

To put it another way: if he had started the season with that sort of form, he would have trounced Grosjean and have been crowded champion.

With Grosjean now tipped to go back to F1 with Renault if Robert Kubica is unable to return to Grand Prix racing after his rallying accident, Jules Bianchi testing with Ferrari and van der Garde also determined that he will not return to GP2 next year and that it's "F1 or nothing" for him in 2012, you'd imagine that the same thing would be true for Filippi.

Truth is: it's not. Not a single F1 team contacted him after his inspiring runs at the GP2 season finale at Monza two weeks ago in full sight of the F1 paddock.

"Nobody," he told Italian motorsports website F1web.it when asked if anyone from an F1 team had been in touch after that weekend. "It really seems that meritocracy works better in GP2. In F1, it works differently to how it appears."

Filippi looks set to be the first driver to finish a season in the top two positions in the GP2 feeder series who will not get an F1 shot as a result. Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton, Nelson Piquet Jr., Tim Glock, Lucas di Grassi, Giorgio Pantano, Bruno Senna, Nico Hulkenberg, Vitaly Petrov, Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez have all had their shot at F1 - so why shouldn't Filippi?

In a word: sponsorship. Drivers either have to be allied to a team coming in (as Grosjean is to Renault) or else be able to bring big cash into the team (as Petrov and Maldonado can). Fillipi can do neither, after his stint as Honda F1's test driver in 2007 ended when Honda withdrew from F1 altogether, leaving Filippi's Grand Prix hopes crushed.

"They had sufficient interest and funds to put me into a race cockpit further down the line," said Filippi, who admitted that their withdrawal had all but ended his chances of ever making it into F1.

Without any backers, Filippi had been the last driver to be handed a GP2 seat (with Super Nova Racing) just before the 2011 season started, and he knew that it was at most a five-weekend deal going in. Once again it was because of the sponsorship situation: backers coming in mid-season would mean a change of driver line-up, and so Filippi knew that Silverstone would be his last hurrah in the series.

As it turned out, fate had other plans - with Coloni suddenly finding themselves in need of a replacement driver after Kevin Ceccon (himself an emergency substitute for Davide Rigon who had been injured in the series opener) deciding to step down to concentrate on his Auto GP campaign. Coloni's one-weekend deal with Filippi ended up delivering a win and a third place at the Nurburgring, after which started the run that would deliver the second position in the championship.

"This year, I had hoped to be able to race until at least Monaco, but here I am celebrating as vice-champion!" he told F1web.it, still struggling to believe his turn of fortune.

If nothing else, the lack of sponsorship money or any F1 team behind his rise means that Filippi can at least be certain that his achievements are all down to him, his talent and to the teams that he has worked with.

Being handed a seat purely on merit "is first and foremost a great show of faith and respect in the world of motorsport, but also a responsibility," he insisted, and as a result he can hardly be unhappy with how things have turned out whatever the future may or may not hold.

"For three years now, I have had the good fortune to be able to participate as a professional driver in GP2 without needing to bring any budget to a team," he told F1web.it. "Today, I'm calm and happy. You can't talk about bad luck in this case, because there are so many drivers who would love to be able to drive these cars.

"I'm privileged to be able to do so, and I don't forget that."

 

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