The “Pantano Strategy” is when a team invests its own cash flow or its sponsorship money in signing a top driver with the objective of raising the team’s image in the GP2 market.
Racing Engineering did this in the 2008 season, effectively raising the level of his team. The approximately €1.2 million earned from Telefonica and Repsol were almost entirely invested in getting Giorgio Pantano on board without cost. The Italian eventually won the 2008 title.
Campos did the same thing with Giorgio Pantano in 2007, though with less success than Racing Engineering. Other drivers have been subsidized, but with little lasting success. Some of these include Adam Carroll and Lucas DiGrassi, who put on the table no or little of the necessary budget.
Question is… is this worth it? Was Alfonso de Orleans better off investing in Pantano or finding a paying driver, even if not a winner?
My opinion is that it is worth it today. Some facts about Racing Engineering’s evolution:
- In 2008 it won its most races (4), which make up almost half of its total victories in GP2
- RE is the 4th team in terms of wins in GP2, mainly due to its 2008 performance
- In 2008, RE was 4th in the team championship, its best result ever and coming off a 6th place in 2007
So in terms of results, the bet was positive. Financially, RE lost Repsol and Telefonica in 2009, but gained Fat Burner as their title sponsor. They probably get less money than before, but their winning form and image has allowed them to bag one of the few team sponsors in GP2. Additionally, Renault has trusted them with Lucas DiGrassi, a talented driver still under the French team’s wing.
All of this would not have happened if in 2008 RE would have raced with Javi Villa and another mid-pack driver. The team would have gotten maybe 1-2 wins – most likely Sunday sprint races – and the loss of their sponsors would have been difficult to overcome. Alfonso made the right move, investing in the long-run and positioning his team, in just one season, as one of the “good teams” in GP2.
Lesson for the others? GP2 is a business, much more than it is a sport. Strategy and investments pay off. Short-term gains lead you nowhere…. if you don’t take my word for it, ask Trident.