Lewis Hamilton says he was “fighting with the spirit” of the late Niki Lauda on his way to claiming victory in Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Hamilton held off Max Verstappen - who later dropped to fourth following a time penalty - and survived late contact with the Red Bull driver during a tense race to record his third win around the streets of Monte Carlo.

Victory strengthened Hamilton’s championship lead and after the race, the five-time world champion said he was determined to win the race for Lauda, who died earlier this week at the age of 70.

“That was definitely the hardest race I’ve had,” Hamilton said.

“I really was fighting with the spirit of Niki - he's been such an influence in our team and I know he will be looking down and taking his hat off.

“I was trying to stay focused and make him proud that it's been the goal all week and we truly miss him.”

Hamilton had to complete 67 laps on less durable tyres than the drivers behind him and despite voicing his concerns on multiple occasions over team radio that he would not be able to make them last to the end, the Briton managed to fend off Verstappen’s late attack.

“I've not driven on empty tyres since 2007 when McLaren left me out in Shanghai for such a long time,” he added.

“It was intense but I was never going to come in, I learnt the hard way in 2015 when I pitted for new tyres and lost the race - so I wasn't going to come in whether I crashed or finished.

“Ultimately it was the wrong tyre, if you look at my back tyre we touched at the chicane but the team has done an incredible job and I'm so proud to be a part of it and I hope I can continue to do well.”

Asked about Verstappen’s failed overtaking attempt that resulted in light contact between the pair, Hamilton replied: “It was close, it was a late dive by Max.

“Luckily I saw him last minute, I think his front wing was beside my rear wheel, I was scared that I had no tyres left."