Fresh crash evidence may cost Barrichello and Raikkonen

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The Independent Online

Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello may now face punishment for their roles in the accident at the start of the German Grand Prix three weeks ago.

Just as the dust has begun to settle over Ralf Schumacher's revised punishment - with the driver being fined $50,000 (£33,000) instead of being made to start 10 grid places behind his final qualifying rank for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix - his fellow drivers have been told that they are required to attend a fresh hearing in front of the stewards at the circuit in Hungary this afternoon.

In Paris on Tuesday the FIA Court of Appeal heard representations from the Williams team on Schumacher's behalf, after their driver had been deemed by the race stewards to have triggered an avoidable accident. On Wednesday the FIA announced that they had decided to commute the penalty to a straightforward fine as relegating the young German 10 places on the starting grid would not only jeopardise his quest for the world championship, but also unfairly affect his team. Like Monte Carlo, the Hungaroring is one of the hardest circuits on which to overtake so starting positions have a greater premium than usual.

In the incident in Germany, Schumacher made a mediocre start from the front row and swooped defensively to the left of the track to take the ideal line into the first corner. In doing so he inadvertently pinched Barrichello's Ferrari between his car and Raikkonen's McLaren. The Finn spun spectacularly into retirement, his car wrecked, but he escaped with nothing worse than bruises. Schumacher and Barrichello were also unable to continue. The race director, Charlie Whiting, had issued a request to the stewards to consider a significant penalty on Schumacher, within moments of the accident.

The court of appeal listened to a great deal of evidence, from Williams and from the race administration. The FIA paid particular attention to the telemetry from each car's onboard "black box" accident data recorder. Their technical delegate, the former Team Lotus engineer Peter Wright, was able to reconstruct each driver's actions, and it is this that has led to Raikkonen and Barrichello also being called to further account.

At today's meeting the stewards will examine this new evidence. Among this, it is believed that the McLaren telemetry shows Raikkonen to have made several directional inputs to his steering, which the stewards want explained.

Barrichello originally told the court: "I do not consider that I drove into him [Schumacher]. He drove into me."

"Everything has already been said," a somewhat nonplussed Barrichello added yesterday. "Now we have another meeting to express our views again. Unfortunately I was in the middle of a sandwich, and that's pretty much it."

Raikkonen, who could possibly face a grid place penalty if the stewards deem him to carry some of the blame, said: "I guess I've said everything that I know and there's not much more to say to the stewards. But let's see what happens. It's a bit weird that it's turned round suddenly, but they've made their decision already. I'm not really worried about it."

Should the stewards decide to apportion blame to either driver, both McLaren and Ferrari are likely to lodge the same sort of appeal that has been partly successful for Schumacher and Williams.

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