Motor Sport: Giorgio Pantano may find route to formula one becomes ever more congested

GP2 series winner Giorgio Pantano may find that formula one bosses are looking elsewhere for new talent

Ron Dennis sounded like the cat that got the cream when he said last weekend that there are no "phenomenal talents" to have emerged from this year's GP2 championship. Given that he masterminded the career of the series' most talented graduate, the 2006 winner Lewis Hamilton, this might sound a bit smug. But does he have a point?

On the same weekend that Giorgio Pantano claimed the GP2 series at his fourth attempt, Sebastian Vettel – at the age of just 21 – won a formula one race for the tiniest outfit on the grid. Pantano is 29. He has, in fact, already raced at the highest level, contesting a part-season for Jordan in 2004, and he's now hoping to follow the lead of Nico Rosberg, Hamilton and Timo Glock and land a grand prix seat.

"Everyone who won this GP2 title went to formula one," he said, "and I'm just waiting now." It might look like a shoe-in to the Italian, but when drivers of Vettel's tender age and limited CV (the only championship crown he holds was in his second year of Formula BMW in 2004, and he never contested GP2) are racing and winning, you wonder if the likes of Pantano have missed their chance – especially when team bosses such as Dennis are turning the other way.

Of course, each driver's route to F1 is unique, but changes are underway that could help the new generation avoid Pantano's experience of spending millions to achieve a title that might count for little. The old formula two name is being revived as the stepping stone to formula one, leaving GP2 somewhat in the cold. This push has come from the FIA, who want a cut-price series – a season would be around £200,000, with conservative estimates putting this at a fifth of the cost of a GP2 seat.

It was announced this week that ex-formula one driver Jonathan Palmer, the F2 champion of 1983 and the boss of circuit owners MotorSportVision, has won the tender to supply engines and chassis for the new series and has enlisted Williams Grand Prix to carry out the design work. Details are still limited and although the FIA has said that the championship will comprise of 10 European rounds, it is unclear whether it will replace GP2 on the F1 bill or be attached to another series such as the World Touring Car Championship. In the meantime, while the thought of yet another championship makes you shake your head, at least this one has some logical and worthy aims.

Talents who have deserved the opportunity to impress F1 bosses but have struggled to find the budget have a new ray of hope – if, due to age or will power, their moment hasn't passed. Motor racing has, and always will be, an idiosyncratic sport when it comes to developing talent. As an example of how muddy the waters are, the FIA wants F2 to be 'inbetween Formula 3 and F1', yet it's rumoured that some British F3 drivers' dads are paying £800,000 a year to race in a series that in the last six years has only seen one champion go on to F1. And it is four times the proposed cost of F2 ...

Littered with championships that may or may not help hopefuls on the way to the ultimate prize, motor sport has a convoluted path to navigate and then the likes of Vettel go and rip up what flimsy rule book exists. In light of his determination, if nothing else, the best of luck to Pantano.

Toro Rosso targeting customer U-turn

Vettel is clearly still elated after his unexpected victory in Monza last weekend – he beat BMW, Honda, McLaren, Renault, Toyota and Williams testers to set the fastest time in Jerez yesterday. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso's team principal Franz Tost has apparently called for the sport to re-think it's proposed 2010 ban on customer cars, which would force the squad to become a manufacturer. Given that the team's Italian GP triumph was probably the first for a real minnow since Olivier Panis' Monaco victory for Ligier in 1996, he's got a point.

Last weekend's action

The sight of Nicolas Minassian throwing his hands over his helmet in despair after crashing out of the Silverstone 1000km on Sunday was almost enough to bring a tear to your eye. The Peugeot driver and his team-mate Marc Gene went in to the Le Mans Series finale as dead certs for the title, but their hopes were dashed in only the second hour. Even though Minassian had told that winning the drivers' title was no consolation for failing to pick up the Le Mans 24 Hours trophy, missing both clearly felt like the end of the world for the Frenchman.

This weekend's action

Fabrizio Giovanardi only needs to score nine points more than Jason Plato to be crowned British Touring Car Champion for the second year in a row at Brands Hatch on Sunday, and he's got three races in which to do it. The Italian has said he wants to wrap it up in the first encounter (a third-placed finish would be enough) so he can 'go and play' in the others. He clearly hasn't been studying his 2007 BTCC season review DVD. Otherwise, he would have sweaty palms after watching the 11 car pile-up on the opening lap of the first race. It destroyed the then reigning champion Matt Neal's car and ruled him out of scoring any points ...


Gemma Briggs

The GuardianTramp

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