Italian GP race winner Charles Leclerc admits his defence against Lewis Hamilton was “very on the limit”.
Leclerc claimed his first back-to-back victories in Formula 1 in front of the Tifosi, but it wasn’t without some stern defending which at one point forced Hamilton off the track.
Hamilton claimed that the younger generation of drivers get away with a lot more, while Mercedes principal Toto Wolff hinted that the FIA didn’t give Leclerc a penalty for his actions due to the “riots” that would be caused by the Ferrari fans – in the end a black and white flag to warn Leclerc was as severe as it got.
The 21-year-old claimed that since Austria it has become clear that more robust defensive driving will be tolerated, but knows he was stretching that leniency to the limit.
“I think since Austria it is clear that you can go a bit further in the way we defend and overtake and just the aggressiveness of us drivers,” Leclerc told reporters at Monza.
“I believe that Austria helped me to change this approach and today, it’s also thanks to this that I managed to win. It was obviously very on the limit but I’m happy to race like this.
“I have been aware on the radio that I took a black-and-white flag for moving under braking but I’m not so sure for which move, if it’s the one at the right-hander where we were flat-out or after that.
“To be completely honest I knew he [Hamilton] was completely on the right. He broke a little bit early, which I think was because he didn’t want to try around the outside. I felt I had left a car width but I haven’t seen the images. I am pretty sure there was a car’s width.
“I think it’s good if we can race harder. I haven’t seen the images so I cannot comment on this case but overall I am happy if we can race harder.”
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Leclerc was actually relieved to cross the line, such was the intensity of the race with Hamilton running close behind.
“There was a lot going through my mind during the race and after the race – a lot of emotions, obviously it was very, very difficult during the race,” he revealed.
“Lewis was behind me and I think the biggest gap there was, was maybe 1.7 or 1.8s so he was always right behind me. I knew that Lewis rarely does mistakes, so obviously I had to stay on it.
“I did a few mistakes, which never cost me a position, once was very, very close but it was crazy. Finally in the last two laps I started to believe that the win was possible.”
An unforced error from Hamilton saw him swap places with Valtteri Bottas who had a late charge at Leclerc, but he was also unable to break down the Ferrari man.
“The tyres felt quite OK and I think with the traffic Valtteri dropped quite a bit and that helped me to get a little bit of space and then finally going over the line, I just let all my emotions out over the radio,” he reflected.
“I don’t think you can understand anything that I said on the radio but it felt absolutely amazing and the podium was also, going beyond my dreams I have had since a child.
“So many people cheering for one team, singing altogether, it was amazing.
“The 53 laps felt a lot longer than 53 laps and there was a lot of pressure from behind. Once I crossed the finish line until now is just pure happiness.”