Former Jordan F1 racer Giorgio Pantano is celebrating his 33rd birthday today!
The Italian started out in karts at the age of nine, and ended up with one of the best records ever in the field, ending his first cadet season with the Italian, European and World titles to his name. He won the Italian and World Junior titles in 1994, and then won the European title in Formula A Karting in 1995 and 1996.
He joined the German F3 championship in 2000, sensationally winning on debut and going on to win the championship, earning a test drive with Benetton at the end of the year.
The following year, he joined Formula 3000 with the Astromega team, won at Monza and was tested by McLaren. He stayed on in F3000 – albeit with the unfancied Coloni team – and won three races en route to finishing runner-up in the championship.
After testing for Williams and Minardi, he still couldn’t crack F1 and stayed on for another season in F3000, finishing third overall with Durango.
Finally, he was signed to F1 for the 2004 season with Jordan, but only after he had been gazumped by Christian Klien for the second Jaguar seat alongside Mark Webber. It was an unhappy season with eight retirements in fourteen races for the team, and he elected to leave after the Italian Grand Prix, feeling he could no longer rely on his family to bankroll his career at the back of the grid.
He joined the GP2 championship – the replacement for F3000 – and also guested with a couple of drives with Chip Ganassi in the IndyCar series.
After joining the Fisichella Motor Sport outfit midway through the 2006 GP2 season, he took three wins and sensationally finished fifth overall, earning himself a berth with the Campos Meta squad in 2007, where he finished third overall with two more wins.
Another season in GP2 – this time with Racing Engineering – earned him that coveted title with four more wins, but how this incredible talent managed to miss the F1 boat will remain one of the unsolved mysteries of motorsport.
He now spends his post-F1 career mired in the land of the former F1 driver – the SuperLeague Series – but also gave his US racing prospects a shot in the arm with a couple of promising outings late last year with the Dreyer & Reinbold team in the IndyCar Series.