When the Safety Car was deployed with 2 laps to go, Trulli made a driving error that sent his car into the gravel. He returned to the track behind Hamilton – who was running in 4th before the run-off visit – and passed the reigning world champion to regain track position.
The actual penalty for Trulli's wrongdoing was supposed to be a regular drive-through, something that's currently not subject to appeal, after the FIA rule book. However, due to the late moment in which the incident occurred – the race ended the very next lap – the race officials proceeded to handing the Toyota driver the 25-second penalty (that has the same status as the drive-through one).
Nevertheless, Toyota filed an appeal to the local Clerk of the Course, asking for a re-trial of the incident. According to them, Trulli had no other alternative but to pass Hamilton under Safety Car, as the British driver instantly slowed down to let him pass. Hamilton himself admitted that he was told by the McLaren race engineers – through the radio – to let Trulli “back past”.
“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. I thought he had a problem, so I overtook him as there was nothing else I could do,” argued Trulli.
Under the current FIA rule book, passing a driver under the Safety Car when he instantly and deliberately slows down is permissible and not subject to drive-through penalties. However, Toyota are yet to submit their appeal to the International Court of Appeal, as announced by a FIA spokesman. If allowed, the appeal is to be judged by the international body during their next meeting on April 14th.