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Cecotto: To win in Monaco is just amazing

25 May 2012

Johnny Cecotto Jr. was in a mild state of shock after winning his first GP2 race. And not just any race at that, but Monaco - the jewel in any racing series' crown.

"I can't describe it!" he gasped at the press conference after the feature race. "It's just amazing: to win here is a thing that only the top of the top have won, so to win here in Monaco is just amazing!"

While he'd led from the start with just a short hiatus from the lead while pit stops worked their way through the running order, and always looked fully in control of proceedings despite constant pressure from iSport's Marcus Ericsson, Cecotto insisted it had been an exhausting morning's work.

"To win in these streets, you have no time, not even a tenth of a second, to think of anything else," said the Barwa Addax driver. "Almost not even the time to press the button and take a drink, because if you let the steering wheel go it's almost a sure crash!"

For his part, Ericsson insisted that he had done everything he could to claim the win and had never given up hope.

"I think we were quicker than Johnny but he did a really good race and didn't make a mistake, and as you say I was just looking at his gearbox the whole way and just trying to stress him into a mistake, but he didn't do," he admitted. "You almost need the guy in front to make a mistake so you can get a run on him, otherwise it's too big of a risk to try and do something.

"The only place really I was look was down the hill after turn 4," he said, indicating the section of the track through Casino Square. "I was quite a lot quicker than him there, but it was too big a risk and he didn't do a mistake, so fair play to him, he did a good job today."

Caterham Racing's Giedo van der Garde joined Cecotto and Ericsson on the podium, and told the GP2 Media Service that he was more than a little relieved with the result after a scare on the formation lap almost dumped him out of the race before the start: "I had a problem with the throttle: I couldn't get off the grid, I couldn't select the first gear, I don't know what the problem was but finally it came in, and then I had to pass everybody!"

Fortunately he had no such issues on the race start itself. "I was a little nervous, my heartbeat was quite up, but still I had a mega start: I was nearly second, but there was just too much risk with Marcus."

Van der Garde did manage to join Ericsson in squeezing front row man Max Chilton down to fourth place on the first run into Ste. Devote, however. The Carlin driver went on to lose another place to Davide Valsecchi during the pit stops and ended the day in fifth place.

"The car felt fantastic, I could have done a load more laps - it's just frustrating that the results don't reflect that," Chilton said. "I made an okay start and defended my position, but the track narrows so quickly here I got squeezed and lost out. Everyone knows it's hard to pass here, and I struggled to make up the places afterwards."

After finishing in eighth place on Friday, Trident's Stephane Richelmi will inherit pole position for Saturday's sprint race on Saturday afternoon at 4.10pm (3.10pm BST) following the qualifying session for the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco.

"I made a great start. I recovered a couple of positions and was behind [Rapax's Tom] Dillmann," said the Monaco native. "I was faster than him but passing at Monte Carlo is almost impossible without a mistake from your opponent."

The Trident team put in a "perfect both in terms of speed and timing," leaving Richelmi with the opportunity to go on the attack in the second half of the race - which paid off.

"I pushed really hard while profiting from the fresh tyres," he said. "I'm extremely happy because going from 14th to 8th is a great result on this track. I hope for a positive ending tomorrow in Race 2. A good start will be key".

His fellow Monegasque, Coloni's Stefano Coletti, tried a completely different strategy - coming out on the prime tyres and sticking on the same set until just four laps before the end. It meant that he was running well up in sixth place from 12th on the grid, and might have been better had he not been held up by slower traffic emerging from the pit lane earlier in the race. In the end, he had to settle for the final points position in tenth.

"Despite our strategy to postpone the pit-stop, tyres wear was minimal as confirmed by fact that the fastest lap that was set at lap forty-one," he pointed out. "Traffic slowed me down in some phases but it is something that one as to account for in Monaco.

"The car was absolutely perfect today and it allowed me to push since the start," he added. "The same pace in qualifying would have probably given me a different result today."

Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer was even more frustrated and disappointed at the end of the day, having once again been pit by a drive-thru penalty during the course of the race, a recurring theme of his 2012 GP2 season so far. Leimer explained that the penalty had arisen because of early contact with the Barwa Addax car driven by Josef Kral.

"At the start I tried to go towards the left, but this didn't work as Kral had a bad start," he explained. "I had to move towards the inside at turn one and Kral pulled over as well. I touched him with my front wing and lost a part." The collision left Kral out of the race.

"After that it was difficult to keep up my speed as I also started to struggle with the brakes due to the missing parts on my wing," Leimer continued. "I missed braking points which resulted in a drive-thru. Overall it was a difficult race for me today."

His team mate Nathanaƫl Berthon had a better day of it, but still missed out on making it onto the reverse grid that would have held out hope of a better Saturday to come.

"Today it was hard to achieve a better result than this - my team applied a fantastic strategy for me, I think we could not have done it any better," he insisted. "My start was great and I passed three cars. Then I was pushed all race long and although I am happy I finished ninth, it's a pity as I missed tomorrow's pole by one position."

Arden's Luiz Razia was hoping to keep up the pressure on Davide Valsecchi in the championship with another points finish at Monaco, only to fall foul of someone else's accident in the final quarter of the race.

"I was still on course to record another points finish until Esteban Gutierrez clipped the chicane barriers when he was running just ahead of me," Razia explained. "I guess I ran over some of the debris from his damaged wing, but that dictated another pit visit and a two-stop strategy was never going to work.

Razia finished in 15th place by the chequered flag, which gives him an uphill climb on Saturday.

"The result obviously compromises my grid position for tomorrow," he agreed. "Without the puncture I'd have started the sprint race from pole, but as always I will do whatever I can to achieve a good result."

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