Lewis Hamilton says he is learning how to race against a new threat like Charles Leclerc after their first serious on-track battle in the Italian Grand Prix.

Leclerc led from pole position and managed to withstand almost race-long pressure from Hamilton, with the pair going wheel-to-wheel on more than one occasion. Leclerc was given a black and white warning flag for his robust defense against Hamilton on the run to the second chicane that led to the Mercedes going off track to avoid contact, but the championship leader says it’s all about gaining experience against a new rival.

“There is no lack of respect between drivers,” Hamilton said. “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.

“(Monza) 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.”

With the black and white flag being used since the summer break as a tool to warn drivers against their conduct without immediately penalizing them, Hamilton says he is happy if harder racing is allowed as long as there is consistency in stewarding decisions.

“I don’t think there is an issue. If that’s how we are allowed to race then I will race like that,” said the championship leader. “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.

“You are allowed to run wide even if someone is there and you only get a warning flag — 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 — I know how to go into battle and it’s the same for all the drivers.”

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