Lewis Hamilton cites his clash with Sebastian Vettel as key to his Italian Grand Prix victory and dismissed complaints from his title rival regarding the aggressiveness of the move.
With Kimi Raikkonen leading, Hamilton attempted to overtake Vettel around the outside of the second chicane on the opening lap, and light contact between the two resulted in the German spinning on the inside. Vettel claimed Hamilton hadn’t left him room, but the stewards decided to take no further action, and the championship leader downplayed the contact after taking his third win in four races.
“It was intense,” Hamilton said. “I think we all got off to similar starts and then I got a bit of wheelspin, and then went into Turn 1. I was surprised that Sebastian went to the left but then we got into Turn 1 and I think there was a small touch between us. Then powering down to Turn 4, again, a bit surprised Sebastian chose the inside and not go through the outside of Kimi — that was my opportunity.
“I stuck it down the outside and had to make sure I was far enough alongside — I had an experience where I was on the inside back in 2012 or something like that and it didn’t come off very well, but I thought there was enough space between us. I think ultimately, I am guessing, he may be locked up; I don’t know. We touched — it was a brief moment.
“It just damaged the car a little bit but I was able to continue and the rear was moving around a little bit more so it made it a little bit more difficult, but not impossible.”
As Vettel dropped to the back of the field and needed a new front wing after the collision, Hamilton admitted it was a crucial incident in allowing him to focus on Raikkonen.
“For sure that was definitely a very, very key moment getting past him, that was the immediate goal. Yesterday I was trying to figure out how aggressive you can be because my race is not really with Kimi, it’s with Sebastian. However, I do need to get past Kimi at the same time.
“I was just telling [Kimi] he did a fantastic race and drove incredibly fairly. I respect him so much. I really enjoy racing with him but again, getting past Sebastian at the beginning was clearly a massive turning point. Of course, I need to watch the replay to see what happened. I saw on the screens that he had spun but that definitely took a lot of pressure off from behind and meant that I could just focus on Kimi for the whole race, and it’s great as we had a couple of good battles at the restart.
“I managed to get past him and he had a massive tow into Turn 4. It’s not being great being overtaken on the outside but again, it’s about that risk — how much risk do I want to take into this corner and collide with Kimi for the win? I was like, ‘I’d rather wait for another moment,’ so that’s what I did.”
When told Vettel had described his move as “silly” over team radio and asked for a response, Hamilton replied: “That it worked!
“I think it was a racing move. It’s pretty much the same move that Kimi did to me. I don’t really know what to say about that. It was a racing maneuver — it’s what we’re supposed to do out there. We’re supposed to be racing. I left him space. I was still on track, so…
“But I’m sure it’s a comment that was done in the heat of the moment. And it’s never a great feeling when you spin and you’re facing the other cars coming the other way. And then you get back up and you start from the back and you have to come through. So, I don’t take anything from it. I know how it is to be in that emotion. I’m sure he really didn’t mean too much by it.”