Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso hit with penalties

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso have been hit with 20-second penalties following a collision in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

The verdict means that Hamilton drops from seventh to eighth place, although Alonso retains sixth.

Hamilton's penalty was for making more than one change of direction while defending in the build-up to the clash. Alonso's was for causing a collision.

Alonso clipped the McLaren when trying to pass Hamilton after Turn Three.

The Spaniard had quickly caught up with the Englishman, who was suffering from tyre problems.

On lap 45, with 11 remaining, Alonso challenged Hamilton on the long straight to Turn One. While defending, Hamilton made more than the permitted one change of direction, resulting in his penalty.

On the following lap, Alonso got a better exit from the tight Turn Two, and closed on Hamilton through the flat-out Turn Three before making his move.

It was close and the rear wing didn't work for me in the last part of the race, so I couldn't overtake him on the main straight

Fernando Alonso Ferrari driver

But the Ferrari's left-front wing snagged the right-rear tyre of the McLaren, forcing Alonso into making an additional pit-stop for a new wing.

Alonso had been much quicker than Hamilton at that part of the race, but found it difficult to overtake as the DRS (downforce reduction system) on his rear wing, which decreases drag and makes it easier to pass, was not working properly.

That meant that it was very hard to overtake Hamilton on the run to Turn One, which was the nominated area for use of the DRS on the Sepang circuit.

"It was close and the rear wing (DRS) didn't work for me in the last part of the race," said Alonso, "so I couldn't overtake him on the main straight, which is the best possibility.

"So we had to fight in some corners, and unfortunately we touched each other. I broke the front wing and had to pit again. So it cost me maybe the podium today."

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Both men said they accepted the penalties. "From my side I'm not allowed to move more than once," said Hamilton.

"Do I class it as dangerous? No, but that's the rule. Twenty seconds is not such a bad penalty for it."

Alonso said of his penalty: "It doesn't change positions, so there is no a big drama. I finished sixth in the race anyway (even after the penalty)."

But McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh described the decisions as "disappointing and surprising.

"They make those sorts of decisions and that's how it is, but a penalty to both drivers is fairly harsh."