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Alonso hit with reprimand for ignoring blue flags in Suzuka lead battle

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Fernando Alonso has been given a reprimand by the Formula 1 race stewards for ignoring blue flags during Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Alonso enjoyed a run to 11th in the race for McLaren-Honda after starting last due to a power unit penalty, narrowly missing out on a point after falling short in a late battle with Felipe Massa.

Alonso chased Massa despite being tailed by the leading pair of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the final two laps, with his failure to move aside for the leading drivers piquing the interest of the stewards after the race.

The Spaniard was deemed to have failed to adhere to blue flags correctly and move aside at the earliest opportunity, playing a late role in the battle that ended with Hamilton taking his eighth F1 win of the year.

“Alonso was shown a solid blue indicator light o his dash and waved blue flags between Turn 14 and Turn 15 on Lap 51,” a report from the FIA stewards at Suzuka reads.

“”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 to 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 penalty points are the first to be added to Alonso’s FIA Super Licence since 2015.

“We started 20th and we finished 11th, with a good recovery, with only one pit-stop, and starting on a used set of tires. That was a pretty huge effort from everyone on the team,” Alonso said after the race.

“After the penalty on Friday night, due to the engine change, I think we deserved that one point – we fought hard for it.

““It was an unlucky situation with Felipe towards the end of the race. He was struggling a lot with his tires when the Virtual Safety Car came out. That meant he could breathe a little bit during those laps.

“Then, in the last two laps, the leaders of the race caught up with us, and Felipe again missed out on an attack, and ultimately took the point for 10th place.

““We’ll try again in Austin. Hopefully with no penalties, and from our usual grid position, and with some better luck.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.