Leclerc led from pole position but had to withstand race-long pressure, first from Hamilton and then in the closing stages from Valtteri Bottas. After the pit stops, Hamilton attacked for the lead and Leclerc received a black and white flag to warn him about his driving after forcing the Mercedes off track under braking for the second chicane, and Hamilton says any discussion with Leclerc will be amicable and behind closed doors.
“That’s racing,” Hamilton said. “That’s just racing I guess. I had to avoid colliding with him a couple of times, but that’s how the racing is today. We just move forwards.
“I’m not unhappy. Of course I don’t like to go backwards, but he did a fantastic job today. I put on as much pressure as I could. We had a couple of close moments — I think we can probably talk about it in private together, but there’s nothing major, and we continue to race. I’m looking forward to more races together.”
“Well then Verstappen should have got that last year. We’ve asked for consistency, so the same rule should apply each time.”
Hamilton faded to third in the race having made an early pit stop for medium tires, with Leclerc reacting one lap later and fitting hards. While the championship leader believes he would have retained second place with a different strategy he says there was no obvious way of doing something different to win.
“If I’d gone onto the hard tire, I probably would have had the pace to finish second with the tire that goes longer. But I wouldn’t have changed the position I think between myself and Charles. I think he still would have been too quick today.
“I did ask in the morning if I could go to the hard tire, but they said no because we hadn’t run it, they didn’t think it was quick enough. I think the tire that we were on was quick, but I did say in the meeting this morning that the tire was potentially going to go off the cliff, because I was following so closely behind for so long, on the ragged edge trying to get as close as I could to be in shooting distance of trying to overtake.
“Every time I opened up the DRS, I don’t know if they went into a different power mode, but the gap just stayed the same. They had a lot of speed on the straights.”