Charles Leclerc has a theory for Max Verstappen racing him differently to Lewis Hamilton

Charles Leclerc achieved his all-time best result in the Drivers' Championship in 2022, after finishing in second behind Max Verstappen.

The 2022 title battle was certainly not as dramatic or as exciting as 2021, where Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen went wheel-to-wheel at almost every round and occasionally beyond it.

Hamilton and Verstappen collided with each other several times in 2021, with the pair having forced one another into retirement at the Italian Grand Prix.

Even when the two battled on the one occasion this season at the Brazilian Grand Prix, they still managed to hit each other.

The complete opposite has been seen this season between Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, with the duo having raced incredibly fairly.

READ: Michael Andretti provides update on team entry after receiving warning from F1 CEO

Even when they played mind games on-track with each other at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, they still avoided contact and crucially kept it clean, something that was pleasurable to see.

So how comes Leclerc and Verstappen can battle without colliding unlike Hamilton with the Dutchman?

Leclerc puts it down to when the battles happened, with the 24-year-old not willing to take “as many risks” at the start of a season.

“We know each other very well,” he told Auto Motor und Sport.

Article continues below

“But I don’t think that is the reason why it’s quieter between us.

“I think the difference with Max versus Lewis from last year is that we were at different points in the season. Our duels were at the beginning of the year. After that, either I had a big lead in the championship or Max was way ahead.

“You don’t take as many risks. So it was more because of the nature of the championship.”

Interestingly, the Ferrari driver did add that things with Verstappen would be different if they are both in title contention at the end of next season, something that will hopefully be seen.

“If we fight to the end in 2023, I think it would be a tougher race,” he added.

Leclerc and Verstappen have actually collided before, back at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix.

On that day, Verstappen forced Leclerc off the circuit, something which the Monegasque vowed would never happen again.

READ: Toto Wolff tells Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to ‘run faster’

“I hated the outcome of Austria,” Leclerc said.

“I thought, you can’t drive like that. But when the stewards told me it was allowed, I was the first to welcome that approach.

“I like to fight hard on the track. At the limit. That’s how I like racing. Hopefully we will see such duels in the future.”