The GP2 championship has helped several top F1 drivers get into the championship in the three years it’s been running. Every GP2 champion is currently racing in F1: Nico Rosberg (Williams), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Timo Glock (Toyota).
Giorgio Pantano is leading the championship at the half-way point. But this year is his seventh in F1’s feeder category and he has already had 14 Grand Prix starts.
If he does win this year’s title, should he get another shot at Formula 1?
Pantano had his first test in F3000 (which later became GP2) in 1999. Two years later he had his first season in the championship, winning the finale at Monza.
The following year the Italian driver was second with three wins and stayed on for a third season in 2003, finishing third this time with a pair of wins.
In 2004 he got his Formula 1 debut with Jordan. But it came late in the life of the team and was heavily dependent on support from Pantano’s sponsors. When problems developed with that he was replaced at the Canadian Grand Prix by Timo Glock. He took his seat back after that race but losty it again to Glock for the last three races of the year.
(Glock also later moved to GP2 and won the 2007 championship and is now with Toyota).
Pantano ‘returned’ to the new GP2 championship in 2005, placing sixth for Super Nova without winning a race. After another two season he is still in the championship this year, making him the most experienced driver in the series by a considerable margin.
He has started a total of 102 races over seven years in a category where most drivers seldom spend more than two years.
I’m not aware that any of the current F1 teams have expressed interest in running Pantano in 2009. He has previously tested for Benetton in 2000 (now Renault), McLaren in 2001 and Williams in 2003.
If he wins the GP2 championship, should he follow Rosberg, Hamilton, Glock and the rest into F1?