Welcome at RacingNews365

Become part of the largest racing community in the United Kingdom. Create your free account now!

  • Share your thoughts and opinions about F1
  • Win fantastic prizes
  • Get access to our premium content
  • Take advantage of more exclusive benefits
Sign in

Is Verstappen racing Leclerc differently to how he fought Hamilton?

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have so far kept their fight clean while going head-to-head for 2022's early-season victories, raising questions over whether the Dutchman is treating his new rival differently than Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were involved in several collisions when they faced off for last year's world title, with the Dutch youngster ultimately toppling the experienced Briton from F1's throne. Over the course of the 22-race season there were dramatic clashes at Silverstone, Monza and Jeddah, and more close calls at several other circuits, as Red Bull and Mercedes went to war on and off the track. However, in a change to the pecking order under F1's all-new technical regulations, Red Bull have found themselves in a fight with Ferrari at the head of the field, as Mercedes watch on with their troubled car. So far, it has been a "hard but fair" battle, in the words of early championship leader Charles Leclerc, who traded positions with Verstappen on several occasions at the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grands Prix.

"Leclerc doesn't see Verstappen as a career threat, but Hamilton did"

Given the number of incidents between Verstappen and Hamilton from the early stages of the 2021 campaign, it has raised the question amongst fans as to why the Verstappen/Leclerc scrap is playing out differently. One theory is that due to Verstappen and Leclerc (both 24) being of the same generation, and growing up as rivals in their karting days, there is more of an understanding between the pair than the Dutchman has with Hamilton (37). It was a topic discussed on the latest episode of the RacingNews365.com podcast, where Editorial Director Dieter Rencken offered another take on Verstappen's rivalry with both Hamilton and Leclerc. "Do drivers have to understand each other? I don't think so. They're rivals," asserted Rencken. "I think that ultimately it could come down to the fact that when Max joined [F1], the driver ruling the roost was Lewis. "I think that maybe Lewis felt threatened by Max, and his superiority felt threatened by Max. I don't believe that Charles has yet had that sort of superiority to have it threatened, and I think that's possibly what it is. "In the one case, Charles doesn't see Max as a career threat, he sees him as a rival, whereas Lewis obviously saw Max as a career threat."

Is a new and improved Leclerc playing a key role?

Leclerc holds the championship lead after the first two races, having claimed victory in Bahrain (where Verstappen retired with a technical issue late on) and followed the title holder over the line in Saudi Arabia. Putting comparisons to the Verstappen/Hamilton rivalry to one side, RacingNews365.com Lead Editor Mike Seymour stated his belief that Leclerc has contributed to the firm but clean battle by refining his approach. "There's never been doubt over Leclerc's pace – he's always had that. I think there were a few questions over some of the decisions he's made in the past, being a bit too aggressive and getting caught up in incidents," said Seymour. "Maybe [now] it is partly the knowledge that he's got a car that can deliver again; he doesn't have to overdrive so much and work to prove himself. "It was round two of the [Verstappen/Leclerc] battle [in Saudi Arabia]; I have to say, I think Leclerc raced better than Verstappen again in the early stages of their scrap. "Leclerc picked his moments and raced tactically, but ultimately Verstappen had the upper hand with the superior straight-line speed and DRS impact with those three lengthy zones. "We do seem to have a new and improved Leclerc for 2022, and I think Verstappen and Red Bull have a very fierce competitor against them." Listen to the latest episode of the RacingNews365.com podcast below!

RESULTS 2024 F1 Monaco Grand Prix - Free Practice 3