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Leclerc 'happy' if Hamilton races harder in future

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(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in qualifying parc ferme with Charles Leclerc (MON)

Charles Leclerc won’t be backing off in Singapore after going toe-to-toe with Lewis Hamilton to secure victory in Italy last time out, and says it's up to the Mercedes man to respond in kind at Marina Bay.

A hero in Monza after taking Ferrari’s first home win since 2010, Leclerc won the hearts of the tifosi and neutrals alike – but Hamilton wasn't so impressed by his young rival's approach.

The pair came close to contact at Monza’s second chicane as Leclerc fended off Hamilton's attack, the Ferrari man being shown the black-and-white warning flag as a result.

It showed just how Leclerc’s driving style has changed since the Austrian Grand Prix, where he swore to become more aggressive as Max Verstappen forced him wide to deny the Monagasque a first F1 career win.

FIGHT NIGHT: How brutal Singapore GP pushes drivers to the limit

Hamilton said that the younger drivers “get away with a lot more” after the race at Monza. Now, before the Singapore Grand Prix, Leclerc has responded to the reigning champion’s comments.

Leclerc's epic battle with Mercedes at Monza

“I think it’s hard racing. I was completely aware of what I was doing in the car,” said Leclerc of the events at Monza. “I think in this particular moment, the one he was talking [about], on the braking point, I was probably not completely aware he was on the right.

“Overall I wanted to race hard, which I did, and I’ve changed my approach after Austria. I think from then on it’s been pretty straightforward from the Stewards that we could race a bit harder and I enjoyed driving like this.”

TECH TUESDAY: Why the only thing splitting Red Bull and Mercedes in Singapore could be the drivers

As the drivers prepare to race under the lights at Marina Bay, a circuit on which Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel has taken seven podiums, Leclerc said he won’t change his style – it’s up to Hamilton to do so.

“I’m happy to continue and if he wants to change, I’m happy he changes too,” said Leclerc.

It sets up an enticing battle in Singapore, then, where the drivers will be pushed to the limit – and where Hamilton’s hopes of securing a record fifth Singapore GP victory look far from certain

LONG READ: How Leclerc made himself Ferrari’s leading man

Charles Leclerc: 'We're going to struggle a bit more' here

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