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Bottas backs 'tough' Leclerc in Hamilton battle

Bottas backs 'tough' Leclerc in Hamilton battle

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Bottas backs 'tough' Leclerc in Hamilton battle

Bottas backs 'tough' Leclerc in Hamilton battle

Valtteri Bottas says Charles Leclerc has proven himself to be a tough racer, but backed the Ferrari driver to keep it up after a fraught battle with Lewis Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix.

Leclerc was shown the black and white flag after pushing Hamilton wide at the Roggia Chicane as he looked to keep hold of first place, and was perhaps lucky not to pick up a time penalty.

Hamilton railed against the decision post-race, hitting out at inconsistency from the stewards, but Bottas backed Leclerc's right to stand his ground.

"I heard some talk in the press conference but I have no clue what happened," Bottas said when pushed for thoughts on Hamilton and Leclerc's battle.

"But for sure he [Leclerc] is racing hard. When you're in the lead there's no way you want to give it up.

"For a young guy he is a very tough racer, which is good to see, as you should when you're a Ferrari driver."

Bottas had his own chance to get beyond Leclerc late in the race, but a crucial lock-up saw his chances of victory disappear, as well as the chance to eat into Hamilton's championship lead which was only trimmed to 63 points as a result.

"I wasn't thinking about [the championship]," said Bottas. "I was just thinking about the best possible result I could get.

"I knew about halfway through the race the win was possible; how things were going and the pace I had on the medium I thought there will be opportunities at the end of the race.

"It was always the plan for me to go long in the first stint and have opportunities later on. We had those but we couldn't make it really happen. The only thing in my mind was to maximise this race and go for the win.

"There's nothing I would have done different in any other case."

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