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

[30-07-2022 11:54 AM]

Ammon News - Max Verstappen controversially beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2021 World Championship after a season-long battle; Charles Leclerc is Verstappen's nearest challenger this season.

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 off the pace this season, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc has emerged as the biggest threat to 24-year-old Verstappen retaining his title, with the pair having engaged in several wheel-to-wheel contests during the first half of the season.

Unlike last season, there has been little to no evidence of bad feeling between Ferrari and Red Bull, although the 63-point lead Verstappen has opened up ahead of this weekend's Hungarian GP has perhaps helped to diffuse the early-season tension that was building between the teams and drivers.

Speaking to Sky Italy, Verstappen said: "I prefer what we have now because, first of all, Charles I know very well, he's a nice guy, we are a similar age - I think we are only three weeks apart.

"I think also we are fighting a very well-respected competitor in terms of Ferrari. The way they go about the way we are fighting… when they win a race we can go to them and say well done, and when we win a race they can say well done, and I really respect that."

Verstappen pointed to a specific example of the camaraderie between the Red Bull and Ferrari camps, explaining that he had experienced an enjoyable exchange with the Italian team's principal, Mattia Binotto, during dinner on Saturday night at last weekend's French GP.

"Also, certain people within the team, even Mattia, I have a really good relationship with him," Verstappen said.

"On Saturday night, we even had a laugh in Paul Ricard, and I think that's great because that's what racing should be about. We are hard competitors on the track and we 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, and that's what I really enjoy about this year.

"Let's say it like this, I would not be on a table on Saturday night having a laugh with (Mercedes)."

Asked why it was so different to last year's situation, Verstappen added: "Just the click we have at the moment with the team, and I have a lot of respect for Ferrari in general."


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