Charles Leclerc believes the respectful nature of his fights against Max Verstappen last season was down to timing, meaning neither had reason to take a risk.
Leclerc and Verstappen raced wheel to wheel in the opening rounds of the season, trade places no less than six times in Bahrain while Saudi Arabia has also seen a game of DRS misdeeds unfold. Australia and Imola were more low-key affairs before Miami saw them battle for P1 again.
It was an exciting start to the championship for Ferrari and Red Bull fans, with pundits praising the respectful run between Leclerc and Verstappen which contrasted sharply with the reigning world champion’s battles with Lewis Hamilton the previous season.
Even this year Verstappen and Hamilton made contact, the two came up against the Senna Esses at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix where the Dutchman said Hamilton had “zero intention to leave me space” while the Mercedes driver said “you know how it is with Max”.
And yet this is not the case when he runs against Leclerc, Auto Motor and Sport ask the Ferrari driver why.
“We know each other very well,” he replied, “but I don’t think that’s why it’s any quieter between us.”
“I think the difference between Max and Lewis compared to last year is that we were at different times in the season. Our duels were at the start of the year. After that either I had a big lead in the championship, either Max was far ahead.
“You don’t take as many risks. So it was more because of the nature of the championship.
The Monegasque driver thinks that if it is the end of the season and they are bickering for the world title, it will be a whole different story.
“If we fight to the end in 2023, I think it would be a tougher race,” he added.
Leclerc was asked if the respect Verstappen showed him had anything to do with Austria 2019, when the Red Bull driver pushed him off the track and Leclerc made it clear that it wouldn’t happen again.
The next time they fought was at the British Grand Prix, Leclerc pulled out his elbows and won their duel.
“I hated the Austria result,” he said. “I thought, you can’t drive like that. But when the stewards told me it was allowed, I was the first to welcome this approach.
“I like to fight hard on the track. At the limit. That’s how I like racing. Hopefully we will see such duels in the future.
Max v Hamilton will always be more vicious than Max v Leclerc
Max Verstappen will always face Lewis Hamilton stronger than he will face Charles Leclerc, Hamilton the same, because there is no love lost between the two.
2021 has undoubtedly been the most exciting season Formula 1 has seen in years, but it has also been the most angry on and off the track.
Verstappen and Hamilton made it 1-2 15 times, they were tied, one for a first world title and the other for a record eighth.
Verstappen found himself in the barrier at the British Grand Prix with a 50G impact. Verstappen literally put his car on top of Hamilton’s at the Italian Grand Prix, trying to get inside and riding the Mercedes instead.
Both times the driver was lucky to escape, saved from injury thanks to Formula 1’s ever-improving safety standards.
The fact that the season ended in controversy just added to all the bad feelings, with Hamilton still bringing up Abu Dhabi and Verstappen making it clear, especially to Sky Sports, that he is above negative comments about it. .
It’s no wonder Verstappen v Hamilton on the track creates more drama than Verstappen v Leclerc or Hamilton v Leclerc.
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