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Charles Leclerc

Leclerc keen for more 'hard racing' with Verstappen

Charles Leclerc's battle with Max Verstappen for the lead of the Bahrain Grand Prix is something the Monegasque hopes will continue for the rest of 2022.

Leclerc Verstappen Bahrain
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To news overview © Red Bull Contentpool

Following a gripping duel with Max Verstappen for the lead of last week's Bahrain Grand Prix, race winner Charles Leclerc says he wants battles like that all season long.

Verstappen succeeded in overtaking Leclerc at Turn 1 in Sakhir on two consecutive laps but, on both occasions, Leclerc used DRS to reclaim the position at Turn 4 before settling into a lead he would keep for the rest of the race.

"It definitely felt very nice," Leclerc told media, including RacingNews365.com, of his battle with Verstappen.

"I was also in a pretty cold state in my battery, so I couldn't use any extra power to defend on the main straight, and I wanted to have the power for the second straight to overtake him back, so it wasn't an easy situation to manage.

"But I think we managed as a team in the best way possible, and also did a good job to get the DRS on the second straight, which eventually helped me to [retake] the lead, which was very important for the rest of the race."

New regulations are "completely clear" to Leclerc

For 2022, the FIA have sought to introduce clearer and more consistent regulations on track limits and mid-race incidents, prompting Leclerc to reference a battle he and Verstappen had at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, when the Dutch driver forced Leclerc off the circuit while overtaking him for the race lead.

"In Austria 2019, I got a bit angry at this race, because it wasn't completely clear what we were allowed to do [in terms of track limits]," said Leclerc.

"Now it is clear what we can do, and I think that's exactly what we want as drivers, and I want hard racing.

"The way we raced in Bahrain was nice, and I'm really looking forward to a fight throughout the whole year.

"If we are as close as we were in Bahrain for the rest of the season, then it will be great to have fights like these at every race."

Leclerc was followed home in Bahrain by teammate Carlos Sainz, with Verstappen retiring shortly before the end with a fuel pressure issue.

Is Verstappen still biggest threat despite non-score?

But despite his rival not scoring last time out, Leclerc is under no illusions about how strong Verstappen and the Red Bull squad will be this year.

"Max and Red Bull seem to be extremely strong, and as soon as they fix the small issues they had in Bahrain, they will probably be the biggest threat," added Leclerc.

"But that doesn't mean that Carlos is less strong than Max. I'm just saying, as an overall standing, I think Red Bull should be very, very strong."

Leclerc holds an eight-point lead over Sainz in the Drivers' standings, having also claimed the fastest lap in Bahrain.

He will line up second on the grid for Sunday's Saudi Arabian GP, with Verstappen back in fourth.

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