Lewis Hamilton says title chase stopped Charles Leclerc collision
Hamilton explains why he backed out of move in Monza battle; but looking forward to more battles with 'respectful' Leclerc
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 10/09/19 10:53am
Lewis Hamilton says he would not have backed out of his scrap with Charles Leclerc at the Italian GP and the pair "would have collided" - if he wasn't chasing a sixth Formula 1 title.
Hamilton was hunting down race-winner Leclerc for much of Sunday's enthralling Grand Prix and the pair went wheel-to-wheel approaching the second chicane, but the Mercedes driver was squeezed off the track and had to cut across the run-off area to avoid contact.
A crash would likely have ruined both drivers' races, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff claimed that Hamilton "was instrumental in not making it an incident".
But asked if he would have done anything differently if the F1 2019 championship was resolved, Hamilton admitted: "I wouldn't have moved. We would have collided."
Hamilton is 63 points ahead of closest challenger Valtteri Bottas with seven races remaining as he looks to become only the second driver in F1 history with six crowns.
"The driver that goes for the Drivers' Championship saved Charles and saved himself," added Wolff, who felt Leclerc's moves were "maybe over the line".
"Lewis knew what he was doing, he didn't lose any bits or parts in that incident, but he could have equally decided, 'I'm not going to let this happen', and put the two cars out."
Hamilton looking forward to more Leclerc battles
Hamilton questioned the stewards' decision not to inflict a harsher penalty on Leclerc and labelled the driving as "dangerous" on team radio - but later insisted he had no problem with "one of the most respectful drivers" in Leclerc.
"There is no lack of respect," Hamilton told reporters. "We don't have a problem, we are not in a fight, I congratulated him when he got out of the car.
"Charles is one of the most respectful drivers. This is the first time I have gone wheel-to-wheel with him, and with a new driver, you learn how they approach different scenarios and maybe position your car differently next time. Maybe I will do a better job next time."
Hamilton continued: "There is zero issue with us, he did an exceptional job and I don't have any problem with it, it is what it is.
"I haven't spoken to him and we don't have a problem but if we get a moment together we might chat, just reverse roles and make sure that he is cool that if I am in that position and that happens and that's cool and that's how we are racing.
"From what I know going into the race you are supposed to leave a gap, now I don't know if that is the case. But it's good that we are able to race hard and today was a tough battle which is good.
"We'll continue to race and I'm looking forward to many more races together. "
Hamilton happy to 'race like that'
Leclerc was handed the black-and-white flag by race stewards, F1's version of a 'yellow card', and Wolff said he believes that rule will make contact between the drivers "common practice".
But while Hamilton called for more consistency when it came to rules and penalties, he said he is happy to race hard.
"If that's how we are allowed to race then I will race like that," he stated. "As long as we know that you are allowed to not leave a car width for example, as long as you are not contradicting us and there is a clear message.
"So you are allowed to run wide even if someone is there and you only get a warning flag, and you only need that once to potentially keep the guy behind you.
"As long as it is clear that that's the way moving forward it's fine so I know how to go into battle and it's the same for all the drivers."