Lewis Hamilton has refused to criticise Michael Schumacher in the wake of the pair's feisty duel in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix
at Monza during which many believed the German legend went to the limit and beyond in defence of his position – to the extent that he was even warned by his own team to tone it down.
After catching Hamilton sleeping on the safety car re-start early in the race, the ever-opportunistic Schumacher immediately pounced to relieve the McLaren-Mercedes star of third place – and thereafter, the most successful driver in the sport's history would go on to frustrate the Briton's every attempt to overtake him.
It was not until halfway through that Hamilton finally succeeded in finding a way past – and by then, his victory shot had long since disappeared, notwithstanding a succession of lightning-quick laps as he doggedly hunted down former team-mate Fernando Alonso
in pursuit of third – but prior to that, there had been a number of questionable defensive moves from Schumacher, including one that put his adversary momentarily on the grass and several occasions on which he appeared to transgress the rules by changing track position more than once.
Hamilton twice complained over his team radio that his rival was weaving – the exact same indiscretion that had earned the 2008 F1 World Champion a retrospective drive-through penalty in Malaysia earlier this year – and likely fearing a similar punishment, Mercedes Grand Prix team principal Ross Brawn advised 'Schumi' to be careful.
Perhaps mindful of his own series of on-track misdemeanours this season and run-ins with both rivals and FIA stewards, however, Hamilton was unwilling to point the finger at the seven-time world champion once the chequered flag had fallen.
“That's racing,” the 26-year-old shrugged, palpably disappointed but deliberately evading questions about whether Schumacher had been out-of-order. “It doesn't make any difference. I got past eventually, and I was able to finish ahead.
“He was incredibly fast. We were a little bit slow on the straight, which meant it was hard to get past Michael, who was faster even when I had my DRS activated. It was interesting being behind him; it was a real challenge to get past, but I think I did eventually, didn't I, or at the pit stops? One of the two.”
As to his poor re-start, Hamilton accepted full responsibility, explaining that 'Michael was on my outside...I was looking at him in my mirrors and then, all of a sudden, the guys ahead had gone...they caught me napping' – whilst at 126 points adrift now of runaway F1 2011 World Championship leader Vettel and only 150 remaining to play for, the 16-time grand prix-winner knows the odds are stacked almost impossibly against him in the chase for the crown, but he has characteristically vowed not to give up the fight.
“It's not a great result, to be honest,” he phlegmatically mused. “I started second and I fell back two places. I'm definitely not happy, but that's motor racing. At least I finished and got some points for the team, so that's a good step. I doubt it's still possible to beat Sebastian for the title, but we'll keep pushing. For now, I'm looking ahead to the 'flyaways' – they're going to be exciting. We still have six races left, and I'm really focussed on getting some more wins for the team.”