Rivalries: Max Verstappen explains why he prefers fighting Charles Leclerc than Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen has revealed he prefers his F1 fight with Charles Leclerc over his battles with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. The Red Bull driver cited “respect” as a key factor in his greater enjoyment of competing with Ferrari compared with Mercedes.
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The Dutchman claimed his maiden F1 world title in spectacular and controversial fashion last season, pipping Hamilton to the crown on the final lap of the final race in Abu Dhabi as the championship went right down to the wire. The 24-year-old had been embroiled in a fractious battle with the Brit and his Mercedes team throughout the campaign, and the circumstances of his title win saw their feud continue long after the season had reached its climax.
However, this time around, amid the Silver Arrows’ struggles, Verstappen has seen Ferrari emerge as the biggest threat to the defense of his title. And while tensions between Red Bull and Mercedes were rife last year, the relationship between Verstappen’s team and Ferrari appear far more amicable in comparison.
In fact, ahead of the recent Hungarian Grand Prix, the Red Bull racer admitted he prefers his battles with Leclerc and his Ferrari team over his tussles with Hamilton and Mercedes. 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 even confessed he enjoyed a friendly exchange with Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto over dinner ahead of the French Grand Prix – something he admitted wouldn’t be possible with Mercedes. He added: “Also, certain people within the team, even Mattia, I have a really good relationship with him.
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“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.
“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).”