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Fernando Alonso given penalty points for blocking leaders in Japan

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SUZUKA, Japan -- Fernando Alonso was reprimanded and given two penalty points on his superlicence for holding up the leading drivers at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Alonso was in a battle with Felipe Massa for tenth place when Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen -- battling for the lead of the race -- attempted to lap him. The McLaren-Honda was shown blue flags at the end of lap 51 to warn him that faster cars were behind, but did not move aside until the hairpin midway through the following lap.

"The stewards examined video evidence, positioning data and heard from Fernando Alonso, the driver of car 14 and the team representative," a stewards' statement said. "Alonso was shown a solid blue indicator light on his dash and waved blue flags between Turn 14 and Turn 15 on Lap 51. He also had received a flashing blue light informing him that race leader Lewis Hamilton was closing on him for over a lap before. Alonso let Hamilton pass during lap 52 at Turn 11.

"The drivers have been told in drivers' briefings that the provisions of the International Sporting Code, that they "must allow the following car to pass at the earliest opportunity" means that they should do this for lapping cars regardless of their current battle. Stewards concluded that Alonso did not do this.

"Alonso noted in the hearing that there was an opportunity allow Hamilton to pass on the front straight, but not thereafter until Turn 11. The Stewards accepted that there are limited safe places to let a car past between Turns 2 and 9 which contributed to the length of time it took to allow Hamilton past.

"In applying the penalty, the Stewards compared this incident to other similar incidents and considered that while a breach, this was less severe than others and that when he did move over he gave plenty of room, and subsequently to Verstappen.

"The Stewards therefore applied a Reprimand (Driving) and two penalty points."

The reprimand was Alonso's first of the season and the penalty points are also the only ones on his superlicence for the current 12 month period. Three driving reprimands equal a ten place grid penalty and 12 penalty points in 12 months would result in race ban.