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FIA Battles: Christian Horner in sly jab at Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes with Charles Leclerc comments

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has aimed a thinly-veiled dig at Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes by insisting that he has been a huge fan of Charles Leclerc’s conduct over the course of this season. Leclerc has been battling Max Verstappen for the Drivers’ Championship honours since the beginning of the campaign, with the pair having scrapped it out on track on a number of occasions throughout the year.

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The friendly nature of their rivalry has contrasted with the bitter exchanges between Verstappen and Hamilton that plagued last season’s fight for F1 supremacy, which resulted in the Dutchman picking up the grand prize. Horner has since revealed that he is enjoying this year’s battle to a greater degree, highlighting the fact that Leclerc is yet to collide with Verstappen despite having tested himself to the limit against the 24-year-old all season long.

“I have a great deal of respect for the way he [Leclerc] has conducted himself,” Horner told reporters. “The way that he’s racing on track, it’s hard but fair.

“There’s been a lot of hard races between the two of them in the first half of this championship and there hasn’t been a single touch. It’s great to see, and it’s enjoyable to be part of.”

Leclerc currently sits behind Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship standings by a margin of 80 points and looks set to miss out on the end-of-season honours barring a miraculous fightback over the final 10 races. When quizzed on whether he wished that Ferrari were closer to Red Bull in this year’s title scrap, Horner insisted that he was happy with the way things have been going after Mercedes pushed the Austrian outfit all the way over the course of the previous campaign.

“There’s not one ounce of me that wishes that,” added the Red Bull boss. “Last year was a heavyweight bout that went 22 rounds and I’d prefer not to have to go through that again.

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“The points tables look healthy, and it’s a great way to sign off into the summer break, but there is still a lot of racing to go. Ferrari are quick, Mercedes are coming back into the game.

“There’s still a long, long way to go in this championship, plus a sprint race, so we don’t take anything for granted. There’s still a lot of racing to do and they’re at very different venues.”

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Leclerc will be able to close the gap to Verstappen over the coming weeks as he looks to pull himself back into contention for a maiden Drivers’ Championship title as a matter of urgency. He has been let down by Ferrari’s poor strategic decisions on a handful of occasions, while individual mistakes have also crept in to give him plenty of extra work to do, but his talent is clearly there and it will be up to the Monegasque driver to prove himself as a worthy challenger as the season draws to a close.


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