Defending Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen has disclosed that his F1 championship fight with Charles Leclerc has ‘more respect’ than last year’s heated competition with 7-time Formula One World Champion and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.
In 2021, the Dutchman’s fierce competition with Hamilton outshined everything else in the season, with dispute both on and off the track. But this year’s competition has been a far more respectful battle, as Verstappen described ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen compares the two rivalries
“I prefer what we have now because first of all, Charles, I know very well. He is a nice guy. We are a similar age, I think we are only three weeks apart, and also I think we are fighting a very well respected competitor in terms of Ferrari. The way they go about [the battle], the way we are fighting – if they win a race, we can go to them and say ‘well done’ and if we win a race, they can come to us and say ‘well done’,” said the Dutch driver on his rivalry with Monacan driver Charles Leclerc.
“I really respect that and also certain people within the team, and even Mattia [Binotto], I have a really good relationship with him. On Saturday night, we even had a laugh in Paul Ricard and that is great because that is what racing should be about. We are hard competitors on the track and will always try to beat each other which I think is very normal, but outside of it, you can have a good time as well. That’s what I have really enjoyed about this year,” added Verstappen.
Verstappen left Hungary with an 80-point advantage in the drivers’ standings, while Red Bull led Ferrari by 97 points in the constructors’ standings. The gap between Verstappen and Leclerc is much wider than it was at any point last year, which could add to Verstappen’s convenience in the competition. When asked if he missed the reverence and off-track laid back competition from last season, Verstappen added: “Let’s say it like this, I would not be on a table on Saturday night having a laugh [with Mercedes]. The clique we have at the moment, just in general, I have a lot of respect for Ferrari and it is nice.”