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Verstappen explains why he is racing Leclerc differently to Hamilton

Max Verstappen has shared some more insight into how he is approaching wheel-to-wheel combat with Charles Leclerc in 2022, and how it compares to his recent fight against Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen has admitted that he is battling Charles Leclerc in a different way to how he fought Lewis Hamilton last season, adding that it "feels natural" to race against the Monegasque. Verstappen and Leclerc enjoyed clean scraps for victory at the first two rounds of the 2022 season, with the Ferrari driver coming out on top in Bahrain and the Red Bull man fighting back in Saudi Arabia. Leclerc was quick to describe their early encounters as "hard but fair", while Red Bull team boss Christian Horner pointed to clear respect between the two drivers . It comes after an incident-packed 2021 title race that saw Verstappen and Hamilton collide on several occasions, as the Mercedes/Red Bull rivalry turned sour.

Verstappen treats every driver differently

Asked in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport if racing against Leclerc has been different to racing against Hamilton, the Dutchman agreed with the suggestion. "Every driver is different, in the way they attack or defend. That's why you always have to go into the fight in a unique way," Verstappen said. He added: "It feels natural to compete against drivers that I have competed against in the past in karts and have now come to F1. "In particular Charles; it's nice to see that we are two young guys competing for victories – we've fought some nice duels so far. "I'm [also] happy that my friend [Carlos] Sainz is now driving a competitive Ferrari, after we made our debut together in 2015."

Why was the Verstappen/Hamilton rivalry so intense?

Verstappen and Hamilton clashed at Silverstone, Monza and Jeddah last season, and had several close calls elsewhere, as their fight for the title intensified. Verstappen reckons the ever-growing rivalry between Red Bull and Mercedes as the campaign developed spilled over and impacted the battle. "I think in the fight between me and Hamilton, the conflict between Red Bull and Mercedes also played an important role," said Verstappen. "In addition to everything that happened during the championship, that also inspired the confrontation on the track." Verstappen then shared that he was never scared during the battle, nor did he seek specific advice from those around him. "Things don't work when you have fear. I never thought about the risk of hurting myself. I was only focused on winning," he said. "I knew very well what to do and I didn't need help from others. The experience gained from the previous years in F1 made sure that the best Max emerged."

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