GP2 Series pacesetters Giorgio Pantano and Bruno Senna again marked themselves out as the men to beat as far as this year's championship is concerned, taking a win apiece in tricky circumstances at Silverstone's British Grand Prix meeting.

Senna took the pole in Friday's qualifying session, narrowing the gap between himself and Pantano after the Italian had retaken the advantage at Magny-Cours, but his good work was undone within a handful of laps as he slithered wide at Stowe and lost several places. The Brazilian also surrendered a position during his mandatory tyre stop, and found himself mired in one of the most entertaining battles of the season to date as duelled over fourth place with ART's Romain Grosjean and Arden's Sebastien Buemi.

The scrap went on into the final lap, with the trio having twice gone through the Becketts section three-abreast, before Senna thought he had done enough to secure fifth position. However, another mistake as they headed into the 'stadium' section handed the initiative back to Grosjean and the Brazilian had to settle for sixth.

"I think we made one or two incorrect choices with today's set-up," Senna said of his preparations with the iSport team, "My car was quite tricky to drive at the start and a gust of wind helped push me wide at Stowe on lap four.

"It was just too easy to make mistakes. My battle in the race's closing stages was great fun, but my tyres were finished by then. Overall, though, I'm not too disappointed. Given the problems I encountered, I'm happy to have scored a few points."

Senna's situation was made worse by the fact that Pantano produced possibly the race of the year to come from fifth on the grid to claim his third win of the year - and a record-breaking eighth for his GP2 career.

The Racing Engineering pilot made a great getaway from the inside of row three, immediately gaining a place as a slow-starting Grosjean caused Andi Zuber to lift. Senna's mistake then gifted him another position, but Pantano found himself losing time to new leader Lucas di Grassi as he became embroiled in a head-to-head with the recovering Grosjean, with Senna never too far away.

The leaders were all on a similar pit-stop strategy, but Pantano clearly had the better car when the resumed and, despite being denied one passing opportunity by an abandoned car at Vale, seized the smallest of chances to pass Grosjean when the Frenchman left a minute gap at the Abbey chicane. It was barely a car wide, but Pantano dived down the inside, the two cars rubbing wheels before the Racing Engineering emerged in second.

He was now 3.7secs behind leader di Grassi, but Pantano quickly began to close the gap and, on lap 30, was right behind the Brazilian as the cars exited the Becketts complex. Having slipstreamed his rival down the length of the Hangar Straight, Pantano feinted to the left and, as di Grassi covered the move, darted back to the right to take the lead in a move reminiscent of Nigel Mansell's on Nelson Piquet in the 1987 British Grand Prix. With the Italian clearly faster, the contest was finished.

"Giorgio was absolutely fantastic, I think this was his best race to date," team principal Alfonso de Orleans Borb?n enthused afterwards, "The whole team was able to make everything work absolutely perfectly and I want to thank every single team member for the effort and work they have been putting into the team this season. This is a team effort by everyone."

Pantano's victory meant that he would start Sunday's sprint race from eighth, with Senna on the inside of row two courtesy of his sixth place. Conditions, however, were very different, and it did not take long for the field to be reshuffled as cars slithered off at almost very corner.

Senna and Pantano, along with the impressive di Grassi and home favourite Mike Conway, rose above the chaos, however, and lapped consistently at the head of the field.

From third on the grid, Senna adapted immediately to the slippery conditions and worked his way into the lead during the course of the opening lap. Once ahead, he was able to pull away effortlessly as the weather fluctuated between light showers and torrential rain, coming home eight seconds clear of di Grassi.

"Conditions were obviously quite difficult but, from where I was sitting, everything felt reasonably straightforward," the Brazilian admitted afterwards, "Once I'd got into the lead, I took things fairly easy, although I started to push harder when Lucas closed in a little. I was able to pull away from him without any problem and, after that, I just settled into a rhythm. I know Silverstone very well and there was no point pushing too hard when I didn't have to.

"There were all sorts of incidents going on - blue flags, yellow flags and so on - but none of them caused me any real worries. The car was so good that I was able to put it almost anywhere I wanted on the circuit. Everything felt great from start to finish."

Pantano, meanwhile, had taken advantage of slower starts from the front row and incidents that accounted for others ahead of him to move quickly into third spot, a position he held to the finish despite both a concerted effort catch di Grassi and the need to keep an eager Conway at bay.

He lapped around three seconds behind the leading pair, before a slight off-road moment on lap seven - which saw the Racing Engineering car running several metres over the grass before coming back onto the track - convinced him that the risk was too high.

"Eighth to third was quite good for me under these conditions," he admitted, "I just decided to keep my place and not take a risk, especially during the last ten laps, when it started raining again. I finished third and I have to thank the entire team as we had a great weekend."

Although Senna took two points back from his advantage, Pantano will head to Hockenheim in two weeks' time with an eleven-point gap over the Brazilian, having scored more wins and podium finishes than any of his rivals so far this season and established a new record for success at the level immediately below F1. His victory at Magny-Cours not only drew him level with Timo Glock's then record tally of seven, but also allowed the Italian to tie Mike Thackwell's haul of 13 wins in F2 and F3000. The win at Silverstone duly set new marks in both categories, with the promise of more to come between now and the Monza finale in September.



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