Max Verstappen says he 'prefers' F1 rivalry with Charles Leclerc to fight with Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen says he ‘prefers’ F1 rivalry with Charles Leclerc to fight with Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen controversially beat Lewis Hamilton at 2021 World Championship after season-long battle; Charles Leclerc is Verstappen’s closest challenger this season; Watch the third practice session and qualifying for the Hungarian GP live on Sky Sports F1 from 11.45am on Saturday

Last update: 07/30/22 07:02

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Max Verstappen says he prefers the challenge of Charles Leclerc over his main rival last season Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen says he prefers the challenge of Charles Leclerc over his main rival last season Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen says he “prefers” his rivalry with Ferrari and Charles Leclerc to the world championship battle he had with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes last season.

Red Bull’s Verstappen emerged victorious over Hamilton after a controversial end to an intense season-long battle between them which saw several flashpoints both on and off the track.

With Mercedes behind this season, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has emerged as the biggest threat to 24-year-old Verstappen, who retains his title, as the pair engaged in several wheel-to-wheel contests in the first half of the season .

Unlike last season, there was little to no evidence of bad feelings between Ferrari and Red Bull, although the 63-point lead Verstappen opened up ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian GP may have be instrumental in dissipating the early-season tension that was building between teams and drivers.

Talk to Sky ItalyVerstappen said: “I prefer what we have now because, first of all, Charles who I know very well, he’s a nice guy, we’re the same age – I think we’re only three weeks apart.

Leclerc emerged victorious after another dramatic battle with Verstappen in Austria.

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Leclerc emerged victorious after another dramatic battle with Verstappen in Austria.

Leclerc emerged victorious after another dramatic battle with Verstappen in Austria.

“I also think we’re fighting a highly respected competitor in terms of Ferrari. The way they do it the way we fight…when they win a race we can go up to them and say well done, and when we win a race they can say well done, and I really respect that.”

Verstappen cited a specific example of the camaraderie between the Red Bull and Ferrari camps, explaining that he experienced a pleasant exchange with Italian team principal Mattia Binotto over dinner on Saturday evening during the French GP of Last weekend.

“Also some people in the team, even Mattia, I have a really good relationship with him,” Verstappen said.

Relive some of the most intense on-track battles between Hamilton and Verstappen from last season.

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Relive some of the most intense on-track battles between Hamilton and Verstappen from last season.

Relive some of the most intense on-track battles between Hamilton and Verstappen from last season.

“Saturday night we even had a laugh at Paul Ricard, and I think that’s great because that’s what racing should be. We’re tough competitors on the track and we’ll always try to fight, which , I think, is completely normal.” , but apart from that, you can also have a good time, and that’s what I’m really enjoying this year.

“Let’s put it like this, I wouldn’t be on a table Saturday night laughing with (Mercedes).”

When asked why it was so different from last year’s situation, Verstappen added: “Just the click that we have at the moment with the team, and I have a lot of respect for Ferrari in general.”

Herbert ‘perplexed’ by Verstappen’s comments

Sky Sports F1’s Johnny Herbert said the way Verstappen dismissed seven-time world champion Hamilton was “disappointing”.

“(It was) actually disappointing in a lot of ways,” Herbert said.

Verstappen is able to hold off Leclerc's rise after the restart.

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Verstappen is able to hold off Leclerc’s rise after the restart.

Verstappen is able to hold off Leclerc’s rise after the restart.

“He kind of seems to just fire Lewis straight away and then he’s been straight on Charles and Ferrari in the battle they have.

“I thought he was enjoying the battle they had on the track (last season), but clearly there he wasn’t enjoying it at all.

“But I don’t understand why his comments would be so negative towards Lewis and the battle they had last year. I’m quite puzzled.”

“It’s not about Verstappen wanting to drive for Ferrari”

Sky Sports F1’s Karun Chandhok dismissed the suggestion that Verstappen’s comments may have reflected a desire to drive for Ferrari at some point in the future.

“I don’t think it’s about that,” Chandhok said. “I don’t think he even thinks about it. He just thinks about the fact that he’s having a respectful battle with his competitors, and they fight hard on the track but they respect each other off it.”

A young Verstappen and Leclerc argue during their karting days, with the pair now forming one of the biggest rivalries of the current F1 season.

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A young Verstappen and Leclerc argue during their karting days, with the pair now forming one of the biggest rivalries of the current F1 season.

A young Verstappen and Leclerc argue during their karting days, with the pair now forming one of the biggest rivalries of the current F1 season.

“I think he’s telling the truth, right? He’s enjoying the battle this year, he’s relishing the battle on the track.

“He runs wheel to wheel differently with Charles as he did with Lewis. As he rightly said, he and Charles have known each other for a long time, they grew up together, they are of the same generation.

“Honestly, it’s his personal feeling. Not all of us are friends with the whole world. You get along with some people, you have a relationship and a bond with some people, and you create mutual respect through friendship with some people.

“I don’t think it’s wrong that he’s more friends with the people at Ferrari or with Charles than he is with Lewis or the people at Mercedes. It’s just their personalities and their characters.”


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