Lewis Hamilton described Charles Leclerc as “very respectful” during their battle for the lead at Formula 1’s British Grand Prix.
Hamilton contested top spot with Max Verstappen on a frantic opening lap and the two came to blows when Hamilton attempted a move up the inside of Copse.
Stewards deemed Hamilton to be predominantly at fault for the clash, which resulted in Verstappen’s retirement, and was handed a 10-second time penalty that relegated him to fourth.
Hamilton reeled in long-term race leader Leclerc through the closing stages and attempted a move into Copse with a handful of laps remaining.
Leclerc initially held on around the outside but a snap of oversteer forced him wide, and Hamilton swept through to take the lead.
“He was very respectful in terms of leaving a gap,” Hamilton said of Leclerc.
“I got relatively… somewhere alongside him so he knew that I was there but he stayed committed and just did a wider line and he nearly kept it and that was really great racing.
“I think for me in that moment, I backed out at one point just to make sure that we didn’t come together but I think it was just a really nice balance and I think that’s really how the racing should go and close.
“In a perfect world, that’s what would have happened in the first attempt but different time, different place, different driver.”
Discussing the move, Leclerc said: “I knew Lewis was in the inside, I left a space and unfortunately I think I had stayed in front but in the very end of the corner I got a snap and lost a little bit of time and then Lewis got in front of me.”
Leclerc, having jumped Valtteri Bottas at the start, was directly behind the squabbling Verstappen and Hamilton when they clashed into Copse.
“I think it’s a racing incident,” he said on the clash. “It’s quite difficult to put the blame on one or the other.
“Obviously there was space on the inside. Maybe Lewis was not completely at the apex but it’s also true that Max was quite aggressive on the outside.
“So, things happen, so what is the most important [aspect] is that Max is unharmed and is fine.”