24-year-old Johnny Cecotto Jr is racing in his fifth full season of the GP2 Series in 2014, and re-joined the Trident Racing team he competed for in his first full year back in 2010.
The Venezuelan had a disappointing opening round of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit when he struggled to two lowly finishes well outside the top ten, but turned it around for round two in Spain and he took his third career series win in the Feature race. He admitted it was amazing to get back onto the top step of the podium for the first time since the Feature race in Germany back in 2012 for the Barwa Addax Team.
“Well it was an incredible feeling and it showed the hard work we have done in the last years and especially in the last few months with the new team,” said Cecotto to The Checkered Flag. “It is also fantastic for Trident, the whole team works day and night to give me the car I like and which made me win the race and I would like to thank them a lot for this. They are really fantastic!
“At the beginning of the season a lot of teams contacted me to race for them and after several month and several visits to various team we saw the best opportunity was with Trident where there are also many very professional and passionate people which are some of the key factors to successful motor racing.”
Since his first season with Trident back in 2010, Cecotto has raced for Ocean Racing Technology, Addax and last season with Arden International. Coming off a relatively strong 2012 where he won twice, 2013 was one full of disappointments with no top three finishes all season, and he slipped to sixteenth in the championship with only 41 points, seven places and 63 points worse off than the year before.
Although he admits the season was one of the toughest of his career, he believed he had learned a lot about his driving and that he is putting it to good use in 2014 with Trident.
“Last year was one of the most difficult seasons in my career because of the lack of results and the difficulties in the team, I also made several mistakes trying to make up for the lack of competitiveness but it was also a very important season for me to grow stronger mentally.
“I think that every time that you are at a racetrack you learn something but especially I become more mature and concentrated, especially the last season I grew a lot because I had a lot of time to think of what I can do better.”
Around the streets of Monte Carlo last time out, Cecotto was one of the fastest and most committed drivers on track all weekend, and he took a fourth place finish in both the Feature and the Sprint races. He put up one of the best defensive drives seen in recent years in the sprint race when his tyres were well past their best, but he did not make a mistake and held off a train of seventeen cars to retain his fourth place.
He however feels the results of the races in Monaco could have done even better had some luck gone his way.
“Monaco was a very unlucky weekend for us if you consider the competitiveness we had compared to the results we got,” said Cecotto. “It started of in Qualifying when two of my laps were ruined by other drivers, in both laps I could have fought for the pole or at least start from the first row in the worst case (thanks to the penalty of Rio Haryanto).
“After that we had a red flag and a Safety car in race 1 in the two worst moments for our strategy and when I came in for my pit stop [Jolyon] Palmer was leaving his pit box and hit one of the tyres and it landed right in front of me which made me lose quiet some time at the pit stop, to come in fourth after all of these problems was still a great achievement.
“Race 2 was also very difficult because I had to start on used tyres as I used two sets of Prime tyres in Race 1, at the start I managed to gain a position but than I had to drive defensive for the whole race which was quiet difficult because at some moments the cars behind me were up to 2 seconds a lap quicker so I had no chance of making the smallest mistake. If you consider all of this we were still very luck and good to finish fourth twice.”
This weekend, Cecotto and the rest of the GP2 drivers arrive at the Red Bull Ring in Austria for round four of the season, and the Venezuelan is hopeful to carry the positive momentum from Spain and Monaco onto the Austrian track.
“I’m sure that we are working as hard as week can to keep this momentum and that we found several things to be even more competitive than in Barcelona especially in Qualifying where we lacked a bit of performance.”
Right now, Cecotto sits third in the GP2 Series championship behind DAMS driver Jolyon Palmer and Carlin’s Felipe Nasr. He feels the team are working well and still has hopes that he can make a challenge for the title in 2014, even though he feels neither the team nor himself are currently on the level of DAMS up front.
“I think that we are working very well and that we are all very motivated to fight for the championship, we have to continue with this consistency and work even harder to fight for the championship. The DAMS cars are very competitive and we still haven’t reached their level but we are very close and if they have a little issue we can catch them.
“The target since the beginning of the season is to win the championship and at the moment we are doing a great job to fight for it until the end.”
In both 2011 and 2012, Johnny Cecotto Jr participated in the Formula 1 Young Driver test, first for Force India and then for Scuderia Toro Rosso. He was happy to get some seat time in the premier series in motorsport, and although his concentration is firmly fixed on GP2 in 2014, he does have hopes that he will one day be racing in F1.
“Formula 1 is always an amazing experience and the F1 teams value me a lot as a development driver which is fantastic feedback to get from them as they are the maximum of technology and development that you can get in Motorsport. At the moment I am fully concentrated at my GP2 season and once we will get towards the end of the season we will start to think about the future, at the moment we think about the present.”