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Australian GP: Hamilton stripped of his 3rd

Reuters
Apr 02, 2009 at 06:05pm IST

Sepang: Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his third place at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after stewards ruled today that he and McLaren had deliberately misled them.

The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement at the Malaysian Grand Prix that Hamilton and his team had both been excluded from the classification of last weekend's race.

Toyota's Italian Jarno Trulli, who had been handed a 25 second penalty and demoted to 12th place at a post-race hearing for overtaking Hamilton during the second safety car period, was reinstated in third.

PENALISED: McLaren Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton wipes his eye during a press conference at Sepang.

Stewards had reopened their enquiry on Thursday after "new elements" emerged and summoned Hamilton to appear before them at the Sepang circuit.

Their verdict was that "Hamilton and ... McLaren Mercedes acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the stewards at the hearing on Sunday."

They ruled that there had been a breach of the international sporting code.

With Hamilton's teammate Heikki Kovalainen failing to finish in Melbourne, McLaren are now in the same situation as champions Ferrari with no points.

Trulli third

Toyota had served notice of a protest after the race in Melbourne but decided not to proceed on Wednesday because they felt there was no chance of overturning the stewards' decision.

Trulli, who had slid off and been passed by Hamilton while behind the safety car, said after the race that he had little choice but to overtake the Briton again.

"When the safety car came out towards the end of the race, Lewis Hamilton passed me but soon after he suddenly slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road," he said in a team statement at the time.

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

Hamilton had told Speed TV that Trulli went wide onto the grass at the second to last corner.

"I was forced to go by. I slowed down as much as I could. I was told to let him back past, but I mean ... I don't know if that's the regulations, and if it isn't, then I should have really had third," said the Briton.

It was not clear what he had told the stewards in the original enquiry and the driver would not elaborate in a news conference at Sepang before the new verdict was known.

In a separate development, Red Bull's German Sebastian Vettel could have his 10 place penalty on the Malaysian starting grid reviewed.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Vettel had been asked to discuss the penalty with Alan Donnelly, the FIA'S permanent non-voting chairman of the stewards.

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