Red Bull Racing Dutch driver Max Verstappen has recently admitted that he is fighting Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in a completely different mannger as compared to the way he battled against Lewis Hamilton during the 2021 Formula 1 championship, explaining that it “feels natural” to race against the Ferrari driver.
Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen were involved in three wheel-to-wheel duels in the first three races of the current campaign, as the Monegasque driver won at the Bahrain International Circuit and the Dutchman responding seven days later in Saudi Arabia. Charles then expressed the superiority of his F1-75 car at the Albert Park circuit, where Max Verstappen was able to challenge the Monegasque driver only once, after the safety car restart.
Charles Leclerc was quick to describe their early battles as “hard but fair”, while Red Bull team principal Christian Horner wanted to highlight the clear respect between the two young drivers. This situation comes after the events which we could see in the 2021 season, when Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton fought for the title and were involved in several incidents and disputes, as the Mercedes/Red Bull rivalry turned sour and ended with the controversial Abu Dhabi race.
Max Verstappen was interviewed by Italian daily newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and was asked whether or not racing against Charles Leclerc has been different to racing against Lewis Hamilton and the 2021 F1 world champion confirmed this was indeed the case:
“Every driver is different, in the way they attack or defend. That’s why you always have to go into the fight in a unique way,” Max Verstappen explained – “It feels natural to compete against drivers that I have competed against in the past in karts and have now come to Formula 1. In particular Charles; it’s nice to see that we are two young guys competing for victories – we’ve fought some nice duels so far. I’m [also] happy that my friend [Carlos] Sainz is now driving a competitive Ferrari, after we made our debut together in 2015.”
Asked if he likes racing in Italy, Max Verstappen added: “When I was a kid I spent more time in Italy than at home, because I used to race karts on your tracks and so I grew up there. I met people from the North and the South, travelling in a van with my father, and I have great memories. I had a lot of fun during those years. I like your culture and the passion you have for motorsport and Formula 1.” – he said in the interview for La Gazzetta dello Sport.
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Is the motivation of Max Verstappen now to surpass Lewis Hamilton’s 103 wins? “Actually no. I’ve never paid attention to records or numbers. Winning races and titles doesn’t just depend on yourself or your commitment, but on the car you have. So my goal is to do my best every Sunday. I am truly at peace and satisfied when I can tell myself that I have succeeded.”
Will speed or reliability be more decisive for the championship? “Both. It’s not enough to be competitive if you’re not also reliable. To win the title you have to score points in every Grand Prix. We’ve already had two retirements. It’s essential to get back in front of Ferrari now and win the next races. At the moment the Ferrari is fast, reliable and has less tyre degradation, all aspects on which we have to improve.” – Max Verstappen concluded.