Pantano takes Valencia GP2 pole Giorgio Pantano has put his Hungaroring disappointments behind him by taking pole in a frenetic qualifying session in Valencia on Friday afternoon, claiming the top spot despite constant pressure from Pastor Maldonado, Vitaly Petrov and Romain Grosjean to stretch out his lead in his championship battle with rival Bruno Senna, who could not qualify higher than eighth.
The Italian's best lap of 1:45.640 was set in the last minute of an enthralling session in scorching conditions, taking pole by just 0.071 after a fierce battle with his pursuers. Kamui Kobayashi opening proceedings with the first sub 1.50 lap on his first flying lap before losing the rear of his car and spinning into the wall at turn five, losing his front and rear wings and bringing out the red flags just as Pantano piped his time to set a strong banker lap before returning to the pits with the rest of the field.
With the track soon clear it was Bruno Senna who was trying to get his weekend started by claiming second on the timesheets, but Grosjean was determined to also lay his Hungarian demons to rest and almost immediately set the fastest lap of the session, starting a back and forth fight for the top spot between himself, Pantano and Maldonado, with all three drivers swapping the position for the remainder of the session.
Karun Chandhok went over the limit of adhesion halfway through the session at the same spot as Kobayashi had his accident, with the Indian driver doing well to stay off the wall as he spun around and stopped in the middle of the track: quick thinking marshals saved the day as they swarmed out to give him a push start, and thankfully the red flags were kept in their holders as he headed back to the pits.
Traffic was the undoing of many a good lap, with Luca Filippi, Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna all losing better laps than they brought home, and when Grosjean was held up on his final flying lap Pantano's pole position was assured. Behind the top four Andreas Zuber, Jérôme D’Ambrosio, Sébastien Buemi, Senna, Mike Conway and Filippi will round out the top ten in tomorrow's race, which promises to be even more thrilling than today's session at the exciting new circuit.
1. Giorgio Pantano Racing Engineering 1m 45.640s
2. Pastor Maldonado Piquet 1m 45.711s
3. Vitaly Petrov Campos 1m 45.802s
4. Romain Grosjean ART 1m 46.010s
5. Andreas Zuber Piquet 1m 46.090s
6. Jérôme d'Ambrosio DAMS 1m 46.254s
7. Sébastien Buemi Arden 1m 46.372s
8. Bruno Senna iSport 1m 46.529s
9. Mike Conway Trident 1m 46.592s
10. Luca Filippi Arden 1m 46.603s
11. Lucas di Grassi Campos 1m 46.607s
12. Karun Chandhok iSport 1m 46.657s
13. Alvaro Parente Super Nova 1m 46.763s
14. Javier Villa Racing Engineering 1m 46.813s
15. Andy Soucek Super Nova 1m 46.949s
16. Adrian Valles BCN 1m 47.102s
17. Roldan Rodriguez FMSI 1m 47.269s
18. Sakon Yamamoto ART 1m 47.270s
19. Davide Valsecchi Durango 1m 47.374s
20. Diego Nunes DPR 1m 47.756s
21. Marko Asmer FMSI 1m 47.854s
22. Ho-Pin Tung Trident 1m 48.030s
23. Alberto Valerio Durango 1m 48.179s
24. Carlos Iaconelli BCN 1m 48.249s
25. Kamui Kobayashi DAMS 1m 48.469s
26. Michael Herck DPR 1m 48.620s