Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton affirmed after the Italian Grand Prix that he found racing through the field more gratifying than dominating the race from first.
The Briton went into the weekend with grid penalties for using too many engine parts that would see him start at the back of the grid.
He qualified fifth ahead of team-mate George Russell as Charles Leclerc claimed pole, so he would join AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda on the back row of the grid.
It was initially an average start for the seven-time champion as Tsunoda crept past him going into Turn One, but Hamilton steered clear of the contact in front of him, and got ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who had gone off as a result of the shenanigans.
Progress was fairly slow in the opening stages, but Hamilton found his groove, and made his way into the top 10.
The 37-year-old stopped later than most, so he had fresher tyres to attack, and he did so with a fantastic double move on Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly, before eventually clearing Daniel Ricciardo for fifth.
Hamilton took 10 points from the weekend from 19th on the grid, further solidifying that he is very adept indeed at racing through the field, contrary to Fernando Alonso’s emotion-fuelled outburst in Spa.
“It’s a thousand times more enjoyable, battling with people,” he told Motorsport.com.
“When I started my first go-kart was like an old kart, it was all bent and buckled, and we always had to start at the back, with old tyres, and that’s what I’ve always enjoyed doing.
“And so starting today, just having those battles is way more fun than starting first and pulling away. It’s a different challenge, but I much prefer the battling with people.
“When you when you win it’s something completely different, and you feel proud for everybody. I love the idea of moving forward so today I felt like I climbed up a ladder. Progress is a good thing.”
As the 103-time race winner traversed the contact zone of Turn One, he did not notice any visible damage to his W13.
“I didn’t touch with anybody, I don’t think, but I saw some bits flying off other people’s cars hit mine,” explained Hamilton.
“And I think that damage the front flap over the tyre, those things I don’t even know what they’re for. But it was flapping, that was damaged. They get in the way of your view, that’s all!”
Hamilton is not entirely sure he would have had a shot at passing Carlos Sainz late on had the race restarted following a late Safety Car for Ricciardo’s retirement.
“The soft was starting to fall off a little bit, and I think they stopped so they had new tyres, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to get past him,” he theorised.
“But still, I really enjoyed the battle with everyone, slowly working away with this car. It was definitely a challenge from the beginning.
“Naturally just as a racer, you just want more time, I wanted to be able to challenge the Ferrari ahead of me and see if I could get another position.
“But I think in hindsight it was probably a good ending, I’m just really grateful to have come back from the last row.”
The Mercedes driver’s decision to take track position instead of fresh tyres, ultimately, was a good one.
“My tyres didn’t feel bad, I felt like I could keep temperature in them and I didn’t want to give up,” added Hamilton.
“They said there’s two people in my pit window, so if I pitted, I would come out behind two people, and I didn’t want to risk it, so I just stayed out.
“This time it went my way, it’s like gambling on roulette, like black or red.”
Russell, meanwhile, claimed his seventh podium of the season in third behind Max Verstappen and Leclerc.