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The Formula One aspirants - Pastor Maldonado, Giorgio Pantano 29 May 2008

Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Piquet Sports GP2 Series, Rd 3, Race 1, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Friday 23 May 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Bridgestone e-reporter finalist Lorenzo Quolantoni interviews Pastor Maldonado, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, 22 May 2008. © Bridgestone Giorgio Pantano (ITA) Racing Engineering GP2 Series, Rd 3, Race 1, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Friday 23 May 2008. World ©  Bumstead/Sutton

With Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Rosberg and Nelson Piquet among the GP2 alumnae to successfully make it to Formula One racing, it will come as no surprise that most of the series’ current crop of stars are aiming for just the same career move. At each of the European GP2 rounds, a 2008 finalist in Bridgestone’s e-reporter competition is bringing us more on the Formula One hopefuls. In Monaco, Lorenzo Quolantoni caught up with not one, but two - Piquet Sport’s Pastor Maldonado and former Jordan racer, Giorgio Pantano…

A nation awaits - Pastor Maldonado
He may only be eighth in the standings, but following a podium finish in Monaco Venezuela’s Pastor Maldonado, now in his second season of GP2, firmly believes he can win this year’s series. And as the closest thing his country has to a Formula One driver, Maldonado has a whole nation supporting him…

Q: Every team wants to win. What can make the difference between the teams?
Pastor Maldonado:
The driver and his mind. I’m very confident and am determined to win the championship. I’m not trying to win: I want to win.

Q: How does Venezuela follow your progress?
I have huge support from my country. The incredible thing is how motorsports have been growing in the past 20 years in Venezuela. 25 years ago there was absolutely nothing. Now we have drivers in different championships: IRL, Formula Three, and obviously GP2. My country is currently contemplating building a new racetrack which will enable us to host international races. There are a few potential projects under consideration.

Q: Isn’t it a huge responsibility to have your whole country supporting you?
It sure is. As I said, my country is pushing me very hard; all my sponsors are from there. I know Venezuela wants me to reach Formula One. I believe I am a good candidate for F1, I feel ready for it. But first, I have to prove my capability by winning the GP2 championship!

Beyond the driver - Giorgio Pantano
After finishing third in 2007, Giorgio Pantano is one of this year’s key championship contenders and is currently level on points with series leader Bruno Senna. Born 29 years ago near Venice in Italy, the ex-Formula One driver talks about the man beneath the racing suit…

On staying ‘normal’: “The racing world hasn’t changed me. I’m pretty much the same guy. This is my biggest quality. And this is what I like most in others as well: they are themselves and they don’t play pretend.”

After removing the overalls for the day: “Although it is very different from my real passion, which obviously is racing, I like to spend my free time playing golf. I’m very lucky, because I have enough time to do most of the activities I like. For example I often play football, tennis and squash to entertain myself, as well as physical training.”

His vices: “I usually wake up between 9 and 10am. I find it very hard to wake up earlier than that. I’m lazy - it’s one of my flaws...”

His values: “Honesty is important for me. This is one of the principles I follow to live my life. I always try to be true because I want people to judge me for the way I am rather than for what I do.”

For more on the Bridgestone e-reporter competition, click here.