GP2′s most experiened driver was gifted an easy victory at Magny-Cours after the two drivers in front him – and his two princiapl championship rivals – retired.
Bruno Senna converted pole position into the lead at the start while Pantano took advantage of starting on the clean side to pass Romain Grosjean for second.
Grosjean tried to attack him back but twitched wide at the Nurburgring chicane halfway around the opening lap and had to settle for third.
Pantano followed Senna closesly around the opening half of the race but Grosjean came back into the equation following his mandatory pit stop. Pantano and Senna’s team were slow to react to ART’s stop by covering it, and so when the pair stopped together Grosjean was able to split them.
He also made a bid to pass Senna on the outside of the Adelaide hairpin but the Brazilian was having nothing of it. But the next time around Grosjean lunged at the iSport from long range and made it through on the inside.
But a few laps later Senna came crawling into the pits with a broken clutch, It has developed several laps earlier and made have played a role in Grosjean’s surprising pass.
Grosjean would not make the chequered flag either. Under terrific pressure from Pantano he stayed cool, despite running wide on one lap on the entry to 180. But he too suffered a transmission problem after losing hydraulic pressure, and he crept into the pits and retirement.
That left Pantano in an unchallenged lead with series returnee Lucas di Grassi several laps further back. Pastor Maldonado completed the podium with third. Di Grassi and Maldonado’s respective team mates were in the next two places – Vitaly Petrov ahead of Andreas Zuber.
Jerome d’Ambrosio was sixth ahead of Karun Chandhok, with Mike Conway eighth for the second feature race in a row, giving him pole position for tomorrow’s sprint race.
The result plays into Pantano’s hands in the championship twice over – for not only does it allow him to open up a gap over Senna, but with Senna and Grosjean starting way down the grid tomorrow Pantano can extend his advantage even further.