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Formula 1 News - March, 2009
Appeal in doubt, but Toyota's Trulli claim valid

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Mar.30 (GMM) Toyota faces an uphill battle to appeal its lost Melbourne podium, but the Japanese team does have a valid case to argue.

Jarno Trulli's third place and champagne celebrations became twelfth on the official classification, after stewards ruled he illegally overtook Lewis Hamilton behind the safety car.

The Italian had been running third when the safety car came out late in the race, but he dropped behind the McLaren driver in an off-track moment.

"Trulli took back the place under the safety car," said McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh at the time of the investigation.

The stewards of the meeting agreed, promoting Hamilton to third, but Trulli insisted that he only passed the Briton because he had "suddenly slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road".

"I thought he had a problem," the 34-year-old said, "so I overtook him as there was nothing else I could do."

The rules permit overtaking under the safety car in those sorts of circumstances.

The problem for Toyota is the inadmissibility of appeals for post-race 25-second penalties, because if the incident had occurred earlier in the race, the penalty would have taken the form of a drive-through, which is not subject to appeal.

Toyota snuck in its appeal through a loophole, by lodging it not with the stewards of the meeting, but with the local clerk of the course.

The team has two days to formalise its appeal in writing.

If its allows the appeal, the Court of Appeal would be faced with a difficult decision. Hamilton has been quoted by Speed TV as admitting that - after passing Trulli following the Toyota's off - he was then "told (by McLaren) to let him back past".

Hamilton presumably then pulled over and slowed, which would seem to corroborate Trulli's explanation that he only passed the Briton because "there was nothing else I could do".

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