Max Verstappen relishing ‘respectful’ title rivalry after fierce Hamilton battle
Max Verstappen has revealed there is ‘more respect’ in his F1 title battle with Charles Leclerc than in last year’s fierce rivalry with Lewis Hamilton.
The Dutchman’s rivalry with Hamilton in 2021 overshadowed all else in the season with controversy both on and off the track.
But this year’s competition has been a far more respectful battle, as Verstappen described when speaking to Sky Italia ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“I prefer what we have now because first of all, Charles, I know very well. He is a nice guy,” said Verstappen.
“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’.
“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.”
Leaving Hungary, Verstappen held an 80-point lead in the drivers’ race with Red Bull heading Ferrari in the constructors’ standings by 97.
The margin between the Red Bull driver and Leclerc is far greater than at any time last year, something that could add to Verstappen’s comfort in the rivalry.
Asked if the respect and off-track relaxed rivalry was something that he had missed last term, 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.”