With five minutes of the session remaining, Arden International driver Cecotto encountered Bird's Russian Time car at the Turn 5/6 sequence while the Venezuelan was on a flying lap and Bird was still warming his tyres.
Cecotto drew alongside Bird at the exit of Turn 6, and swerved towards his car, forcing it off the track on the approach to Turn 7. Bird bounced across the grass before rejoining, and then went on to set the fifth-fastest time.
Following a stewards investigation, Bird was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Cecotto in the first instance, dropping him from fifth to eighth.
However, for his subsequent retaliation move, Cecotto was excluded from qualifying and will start from the back of the grid in Saturday's feature race.