Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has noticed that Sir Lewis Hamilton’s rivalry with Max Verstappen’s was different to his own.
Verstappen and Hamilton took an astonishing 18 wins between them in 2021 as the Dutchman dramatically beat his rival to the crown on the very last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
During the campaign, they collided in Silverstone, Monza and Saudi Arabia, while the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend was also full of controversy.
Mercedes have dropped back since the turn of the new technical regulations though and, for the first time since 2019, Ferrari have become a race winning team.
Leclerc won two of the opening three rounds in Bahrain and Melbourne, either side of a Verstappen success in Jeddah.
The pair had scintillating battles in both of the first two races of the 2022 season, and they used “smart tricks,” as Verstappen termed them, while trying to gain DRS on each other.
The fighting has always been clean when the pair have ended up on the same bit of asphalt this year, and Red Bull boss Christian Horner has recently remarked that there is less “needle” between his team and Ferrari than there is with Mercedes.
Verstappen previously commented that he has been racing Leclerc longer than he has Hamilton, making their relationship different, both on and off track, to the Dutchman’s occasionally tense encounters with the seven-time champion.
Leclerc agrees with that sentiment, but reckons things could heat up if he closes the 98-point deficit to the reigning champion towards the end of the season.
“I like to face Max, we have a similar level of aggression,” he said in conversation with Corriere della Sera.
“We have fun with respect, I’m not saying that last year there was no respect between Max and Lewis, but it seemed like a different battle than ours.
“But if we were to get to the end of the championship very close as points, the situation would be much more tense than now.”
The Monegasque also stated that he would take “none” of Verstappen’s characteristics, as he is “focused on myself.”
Verstappen won last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix from 14th on the grid, while Leclerc recovered from 15th to sixth after a litany of issues during the race.