Giorgio makes his a double in season finale
Giorgio Pantano has taken a stunning victory in the final GP2 series race of the 2006 season, in Monza today. The Italian made an incredible getaway from eighth on the grid to lead into the first corner and was never headed. He took the chequered flag from GP2 series 2006 drivers' champion Lewis Hamilton, who finished the season in style with a gritty drive, with Clivio Piccione in third for the second time this year.
Race Report: Giorgio lined up on the grid in eighth following his win in yesterday's race, but even the pumped up Italian could not have envisaged the start he was to get as the lights went out. Pole-sitter Hiroki Yoshimoto was slow off the line with Clivio also seeming to bog down in second. As the following cars jinked to go past them, Giorgio went wide and swept past everyone. He cleared the first chicane in the lead, with Lewis on his tail and Clivio not far behind.
Nelson Piquet Jr meanwhile was in fighting spirit, and having lost any chance of taking the title yesterday, he was quick to pass Alex Premat and Nicolas Lapierre. By the second lap he was already on Clivio's rear wing, but the Brazilian would never find a way past. Try as he might, the Monegasque was just too wide, and determined, to let the podium place go, and after many laps of trying Nelson outbraked himself into the chicane and spun, falling behind both BCNs and the Frenchmen he had dispatched earlier in the race.
Lewis meanwhile was gunning for Giorgio and as the Italian rattled off a set of fastest laps, the champion did his best to respond. He pushed just a touch too hard though, and flew wide onto the gravel at Lesmo. Recovering his composition and making his way back onto the track, the electrifying Lewis we had seen so many times this year was back on a mission. First time through the gap was six seconds, and with less than ten laps to go Lewis' task of catching Giorgio seemed impossible.
But impossible is not a word Lewis understands very well, and by the time the penultimate lap came around, Lewis was less than half a second from Giorgio. The pair diced into the second chicane, with Lewis taking the lead but cutting the corner. He dutifully handed first place back, and Giorgio held his nerve to win by just 0.411 seconds. Clivio came home third, a further 13 seconds back from the pair, with Nicolas fourth, Hiroki fifth and Nelson sixth following Alex's unexpected retirement in the pits following a moment in the gravel at Lesmo. But Alex's solace is that with his weekend's results, he has wrapped up third in the championship.
It had been another superb home win for Giorgio and another mind-blowing drive from Lewis, which further highlighted why he is the 2006 GP2 series champion. And so, with an incredible season over, the teams started to pack away their wares, and Lewis was able to reflect on an astonishing season, and on exactly what he was going to spend the $100,000 he will receive from Bridgestone at tonight's GP2 Series Prize Giving Ceremony, featuring the fifth Annual Winning Attitudes Awards.
st 1 Giorgio Pantano - Petrol Ofisi FMS International.32:08.597 "This is unbelievable. Really, an unbelievable race. The start was something incredible. I thought I jumped the start and was waiting to be called in to the pits, but it never came. Compared to last year, to finish fifth for me and the team in so few races, is amazing. I'm very happy I came back!"
2nd Lewis Hamilton - ART Grand Prix. +0.411 "It's been an amazing season, a sensational rollercoaster. Today I just wanted to go out and have a good race, and I think I did that. There have been so many highlights this year. It's been amazing, a great feeling, and now the next step is Formula One World Champion! rd 3 Clivio Piccione - DPR. +14.075 It's been a tough season, many ups and downs, but what a great finish -awesome! I have some Italian blood in me so to be on the podium here, with the Championship winner in the final round is just fantastic."