With at least an extra six spaces available on the Formula 1 grid next year, a host of drivers on the cusp of grand prix level are hoping that the influx of new teams could give them a chance to reach the pinnacle of the sport at least.
Last year's GP2 champion Giorgio Pantano is at the forefront of this group, and has already been linked to the Campos team after his success for it in the 2007 GP2 season. But as the Italian, who is keeping himself busy in the Megane Trophy and Superleague Formula, explained to AUTOSPORT, nothing is certain yet.Q. Now that the FIA has released details of the 2010 Formula 1 entry list, can you make any comment regarding Campos Grand Prix and your possible involvement with it?Giorgio Pantano:
There is nothing that we can say at the moment, just that we have had a good relationship, myself and [Adrian Campos], and also that we had a great time together [in GP2]. We've had a good announcement from the FIA and I am happy for him and the people working for him because they are wonderful. Now we'll see if there is a chance for me there.Q. Are you enjoying yourself in the Eurocup Megane Trophy?GP:
Yes, I am here because a very good friend of mine Jerry [Caneviso], and also Piergiorgio [Testa, from the Oregon team] called me with an opportunity to stay on the track and run a little bit. It is good to do some racing, get to know a new championship and a new car.
It is interesting to gain knowledge of how to drive these cars and find out about the level of competition here. At the moment we did quite a good job, I'm starting to have a good feeling with the car and we're now working with the set-up to help it suit my driving style. I sure we will be competitive.Q. One of your GP2 rivals from last season, Bruno Senna, did a DTM test at the beginning of the year. How similar do you think the Megane is to the DTM, and could this seen as a step towards entering the DTM for you?GP:
You know, I never drove a DTM car, so I don't know how similar they are. I am sure they're not far apart, because you are sitting very low on the bottom in this car and we have 360bhp. It is like being in a single-seater car, and you enjoy driving it, not like a GT car. They are quite heavy compared to this one, and because of that are perhaps difficult to find a good set-up on and really drive on the limit. Here the weight is quite similar to a single-seater, it is less than 1000kg.Q. Can you give any insight into what happened to you over the winter?GP:
I was waiting to see if there could be an opportunity for me in Formula 1, unfortunately other drivers were involved in different situations and with various seats, so it was not possible.
Because I stayed for such a long time waiting for things I also missed the opportunity to be in America. All of the good IRL [IndyCar Series] seats were gone, and the only ones available were pay seats. I am always in contact with Chip Ganassi. Unfortunately it was too late last year and they had signed [Dario] Franchitti. It's already time to give him a phone and see the situation for next year again. The race I did with him at Watkins Glen in 2005 was a great experience. I had a problem and went down to 18th, but then it was up and up and I finished fourth.Q. Did the economic downturn compound your problems, as grid sizes have been affected in many categories?GP:
Well, I still have a goal and a dream. My dream is Formula 1 or IndyCar, they are the first series that I want to be involved in. I don't want to race in other categories, my focus is on them, and otherwise I'll think about changing my job if there isn't something good. I have to look at my future now.
This year was I have just been on the phone. Phone, phone, phone, always trying to find sponsors. I decided to come here to keep driving because otherwise it was just on the phone. I had another opportunity in Superleague and I decided to do that, just to do some racing. Also, from what I hear, it is quite a good car. I mean 750bhp it is not bad, and it is only six races. I have nothing else this year, as I am now waiting for 2010, so why not do it? Otherwise I would be at home watching racing on television.Q. In Formula 1 in recent years we have seen Fernando Alonso become the youngest world champion, a record subsequently broken by Lewis Hamilton. Do you think there is a negative perception regarding your age, and how do you respond to those critics?GP:
I think you have to be honest. Jenson [Button] is my age, Jenson was racing with me in go-karts, and he is now doing the job. Alonso was racing with me, he's just one or two years younger than me. [Sebastien] Bourdais is similar to my age, I think he's one year older. Kimi [Raikkonen] is around my age. They are not too old, but I realise that if I am going to do the step and jump into Formula 1 then I need to do it soon. I don't have time to wait. I have enough experience now; I need to do the job soon.Q Are the restrictive Formula 1 testing regulations this year a source of frustration, as presumably that has closed off another avenue for you?GP:
I was not interested in that. It was interesting only if they said 'okay you do a year testing, followed by a year of racing'. But I was not looking for that. I think Campos will do a very good job as they have Dallara building the car. It is good to have another racing manufacturer come in, and Dallara is the best man to do it. We'll wait and see what happens, but I think that I won't have to wait a long time to find out what happens for me.