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Cecotto sent to back after clash with angry Bird

22 March 2013

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.

"It's easy to say I could have been on pole position, but we've only got one lap and I was lucky not to get traffic," he added. "To be on the front row on the first race is a very nice start, I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Carlin's Felipe Nasr was also going over his flying laps to see where those crucial extra fractions of a second could have come from to put him in front.

"On my flying lap, I had a bit of a lockup in the last corner which cost me a little bit," said the Brazilian. "But anyway, I think P3 is still a pretty good place to fight for a podium tomorrow. We'll see. It's only the first race of the year."

Nasr will start on the second row alongside Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer, who had led the times at the mid-point in the session until he was pushed down in the final ten minutes while he opted to save a set of option tyres for the race.

"As it was the first time we were able to really push in qualifying mode, I think we did a pretty good job as I immediately took P1 at the beginning of the session," he said. "In the end three other drivers improved and I think we took the right decision to have an eye on tomorrow's race. Therefore I am happy with today's P4; we will see what tomorrow brings."

Calado, meanwhile, was still shaking his head. "I do keep thinking about those two centimetres though. Maybe I should have bounced on my seat!" he added with a laugh.

Feature race starting grid

1. #18 Stefano Coletti Rapax
2. #3 James Calado ART Grand Prix
3. #9 Felipe Nasr Carlin
4. #8 Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering
5. #6 Mitch Evans Arden International
6. #17 Rio Haryanto Barwa Addax Team
7. #24 Rene Binder Venezuela GP Lazarus
8. #11 Sam Bird Russian Time *
9. #19 Simon Trummer Rapax
10. #12 Tom Dillmann Russian Time
11. #7 Julian Leal Racing Engineering
12. #14 Sergio Canamasas Caterham Racing
13. #1 Marcus Ericsson DAMS
14. #26 Adrian Quaife-Hobbs MP Motorsport
15. #2 Stephane Richelmi DAMS
16. #22 Conor Daly Hilmer Motorsport
17. #20 Nathanael Berthon Trident Racing
18. #21 Kevin Ceccon Trident Racing
19. #15 Ma Qing Hua Caterham Racing
20. #27 Daniel de Jong MP Motorsport
21. #4 Daniel Abt ART Grand Prix
22. #10 Jolyon Palmer Carlin
23. #16 Jake Rosenzweig Barwa Addax Team
24. #23 Pal Varhaug Hilmer Motorsport
25. #25 Kevin Giovesi Venezuela GP Lazarus
26. #5 Johnny Cecotto Jr. Arden International **

* penalised three grid places for impeding a driver
** times deleted for unacceptable driving


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