Hearing reopened into Trulli penalty

Updated: April 2, 2009, 1:53 AM ET
Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Jarno Trulli could have his third-place finish at the Australian Grand Prix reinstated, days after stewards imposed a penalty that cost the Toyota driver nine places in the season-opening race.

Formula One stewards have reopened the hearing into Trulli's pass of Lewis Hamilton behind the safety car Sunday, with the case to be heard Thursday.

Trulli was demoted from third place to 12th by a 25-second penalty after stewards found him guilty of overtaking under safety car conditions. That promoted reigning world champion Hamilton from fourth to third.

The FIA, F1's governing authority, released a statement saying "a new element has emerged regarding the incident" and asked both drivers to meet stewards at the Sepang track, site of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.

Trulli claimed he had no choice but to overtake Hamilton, who slowed markedly in the safety car period as the race drew to a close.

"The FIA really got it wrong in that decision," Trulli told the New Straits Times newspaper. "We have all the evidence, including Hamilton's admission, that I did not overtake him. He let me pass.

"Hamilton had a problem and he slowed down, almost stopping. There was nothing else I could do but keep going, and in order to do that, I had to pass him."

Toyota issued a statement on Wednesday saying it had initially wanted to appeal the decision, but elected not to, based on past appeals that had been rejected on procedural grounds.

Both Hamilton and McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said immediately after the Australian Grand Prix that they had passed Trulli early in the safety car period when the Italian ran wide, and then later yielded the position.

The race finished under safety car conditions after a crash four laps from the finish involving Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who was in second place at the time, and BMW's Robert Kubica, who was in third place.

Neither finished the race, with Brawn GP drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello finishing first and second, followed across the line by Trulli and Hamilton.

Even if Trulli is reinstated, there's no guarantee the podium places will stand.

Rivals Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault have appealed a stewards' decision that allowed Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars to race in Australia with rear diffusers they believe breached the sport's new aerodynamics regulations.

The decision on the legality of the cars will be made by the FIA -- the sport's governing body -- after the Malaysian Grand Prix.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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