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Cecotto sent to back after clash with angry Bird

Johnny Cecotto Jr. will have to start from the back of the grid on Saturday after his qualifying times were deleted for 'unacceptable' behaviour.
Arden's Johnny Cecotto Jr. will have to start from the back of the grid for Saturday's feature race 1 in Malaysia, the curtain-raiser for the 2013 GP2 Series championship.

Cecotto had finished Friday afternoon's qualifying session with the 14th fastest time, but all his laps were deleted by race stewards investigating an incident between Cecotto and Russian Time's Sam Bird.

Cecotto had been irate after his flying lap had been impeded by the slow-running Bird through turn 5. Although the Briton finally moved over on the exit of turn 6, Cecotto evidently felt that some street justice was called for and he proceeded to barge Bird clean off the right hand side of the track in the run down to turn 7.

The race stewards deemed this reaction to be 'unacceptable' and duly wiped out all of Cecotto's qualifying session lap times. However, they did agree with the Venezuelan that he had originally been held up by Bird, and they handed the British driver a three-place grid penalty for tomorrow's race which drops him from fifth to eighth place for the start of tomorrow's race.

Cecotto meanwhile will still be allowed to start the feature race on Saturday, but will have to do so from dead last on the grid. Many commentators reacting to the incident had suggested that Cecotto could even be benched from the entire race weekend for his ill-judged attempt at retaliation.

The spat between Cecotto and Bird took the spotlight off one of the closest top threes in qualifying ever seen, with just 0.008s covering polesitter Stefano Coletti, fellow front row driver James Calado and third-placed Felipe Nasr when the chequered flag came out.

"It was a very close battle," said Coletti afterwards. "I gave 105 per cent on that flying lap. I was pushing everywhere. I even made a small mistake. I almost lost it, but in the end it paid off and I was in front.

"It did not go quite as planned because I got a lot of traffic on my first set of tyres on my fastest lap," the Rapax driver revealed to the GP2 Media Service. "On the soft compounds, we only get one fast lap out of it so I came back into the pits a bit frustrated after that first run."

ART's James Calado could hardly believed he'd missed out by such a tiny margin.

"Four thousands! Two centimetres I think it was in the end," he said, ruing the lost opportunity for pole and points. "The first lap had potential to be pole position, but at turn 14 I made a mistake and went wide and lost a couple of tenths.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Johnny Cecotto Jr. (VEN, Arden International) during post-season testing at Jerez on 23 November 2012. (Photo: Malcolm Griffiths/GP2 Series Media Service)
Johnny Cecotto Jr. (VEN, Arden Inernational) in Malaysia. (World Copyright: Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Johnny Cecotto Jr. (VEN, Arden Inernational) during qualifying at Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia - March 22 2013. (World Copyright: Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service.
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