Lewis Hamilton says he opted against being more selfish at the start of Formula 1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to ensure Mercedes kept its advantage over Ferrari.

Hamilton made the better start from second on the grid to challenge Valtteri Bottas for the lead at Turn 1, with the pair running side-by-side through the opening sequence of corners.

But Bottas maintained his position and fended off Hamilton to claim his second win of the 2019 season and move back into a one-point lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.

Hamilton reckoned he could have fought Bottas harder but was wary about the impact on Mercedes’ result, with the reigning world champions going on to record a historic fourth consecutive one-two finish at the start of the year.

"It's very, very difficult and ultimately you always have to remember that when you're in a team as big as this, you're only one person and there are so many people who depend on us," Hamilton explained.

"Selfishly, I could have pushed a lot harder and Valtteri would have lost positions and I would have gained positions. Most likely, he would have been overtaken by Ferrari or something like that.

"We have to work together, so while I wanted to overtake him, I have to be cautious at the same time to give him space so that we could lock the front row and we would stay there.

"Ultimately I lost out, but that's a sacrifice you have to make in order for the team to win. I think if it were a Ferrari there it would have been a lot different. And that will be how it continues for the rest of the year.

"Valtteri and I have always had a lot of respect for each other and we continue to do so and you can see that's how we deal with it. We discuss it before the race and we agree as gentlemen and we stick to it."

Hamilton closed back up to Bottas in the final few laps but was left to rue losing crucial time under a late Virtual Safety Car period, something the Briton admitted he could have prevented.

“Ultimately Valtteri did a better job in qualifying on that last lap, which put him in the position to be able to fight and then fine margin at the start, which I’ll have to work on,” Hamilton conceded.

“Then I lost two-and-a-half seconds, or whatever it is, under the VSC, so had to regain that and, with only nine laps to go, that was not so easy.

“That was my fault and something I’ll work on. There’s somethings I can fix on the dash to make sure that doesn’t happen again. But, nonetheless, it was a great result for the team.”

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