“Thoughts on retaliation and driving standards”

Canamasas faced stewards in Bahrain. © Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service.
Canamasas faced stewards in Bahrain. © Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service.

In a mirror image of events at Sepang a few weeks ago, retaliatory driving has reared its ugly head once again during GP2 Series qualifying over the weekend.

Where Johnny Cecotto Jr’s shocking move to force Sam Bird off track in Malaysia raised eyebrows, Caterham’s Sergio Canamasas surely dropped jaws when he took not one, but two separate swings at Kevin Ceccon at the end of qualifying.

Having being hindered by Ceccon on his fast lap late on, Canamasas slowed shortly afterward, before making moves across the bow of his opponent
On the next tour by, Canamasas repeated the trick in an attempt to force Ceccon clean off the circuit. Like Cecotto Jr, Canamasas was removed from qualifying; leaving the Spaniard rooted to the tail of the grid, but is that enough?

Putting the sporting argument – or lack of it – to one side, actions such as those perpetrated by Canamasas and Cecotto Jr also represent a potential threat to competitor safety, yet are treated with a relatively light touch.
By the end of the GP2 sprint race in Sepang, Cecotto Jr had fed his way back into the points, whereas Canamasas fell 0.9s shy of a score at Sakhir.

Considering GP2’s position as the main feeder category to Formula One, it must be asked is deletion of times in qualifying is an acceptable punishment and whether throwing a driver out – as NASCAR did to Kyle Busch at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011 {note 1} – is a more reasonable punishment.
However, in taking lenient action, the stewards in Malaysia and Bahrain have set a precedent and any attempts to penalise drivers harder for similar incidents in the future may bring valid counter-arguments citing the Sepang / Sakhir penalties.

The great worry is that at some point, it has become acceptable for a racer to retaliate against opponents on track – this is a very, very worrying trend. These cars – with drivers partially exposed – simply go too fast for such malicious behaviour and it is again sending out a message that a driver can retaliate in this manner and receive little in the way of penalty.

Some have spoken of Canamasas’ misdemeanours from previous events, yet those incidents should not even come into it. This clash alone should have garnered a weekend ban from the series, but for whatever reason, the stewards have been overly lenient.
It is the opinion of this writer that both Cecotto Jr and Canamasas should have been sat out for the rest of the weekend, if not longer.

The sport needs to get a thorough grip on this issue and treat it with serious consideration it deserves, before someone – a driver, marshal or attendee – gets hurt.

Thoughts on the racing events at the GP2 Series weekend will be published tomorrow morning.

{note 1}
During a NASCAR Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in November 2011, Kyle Busch was parked for the weekend when he deliberately drove hard into the rear of Ron Hornaday early in the event.
Despite being one of NASCAR’s biggest stars, Busch was made to sit out the following two races, including Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, effectively ending his (slim) hopes of the title. It was a marked move by a series not known for punishing drivers.
It feels odd that I am looking to NASCAR when it comes to punishing drivers for deliberate contact.

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