Red Bull team principal Christian Horner observes that the rivalry between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc has been a placid one, but he predicts it will become more aggressive as the year goes on.
Verstappen has won three races to Leclerc’s two at the beginning of the 2022 season, and the pair have engaged in some entertaining battles in virtually every round of the season thus far, but they have both been perennially making sure to stress the respect they have for one another both on track and off it.
The Dutchman stated that the fact he has been racing the Monegasque “a bit longer” than Sir Lewis Hamilton means that there is naturally a different relationship between the pair than there was during his mammoth fight with Hamilton last season.
That distinction partially derives from the team Red Bull are up against too. Dr Helmut Marko affirmed that his team’s relationship with Ferrari is a more “sportive” one than the hostilities they shared with Mercedes.
Horner too observes that politics off track, unlike last season, have not been overshadowing the action taking place between the drivers on the circuit.
“Last year there was a lot of needle, a lot going on off track as well as on track, whereas this year seems much more focused about what’s going on on track,” he said.
However, the Briton is aware that this can all change as the tensions rise, and all it might take is an incident between the championship protagonists akin to Silverstone last year to tip things over the edge.
“And I think the racing has been great between Charles and Max. And the first four races have been epic. If that continues through the season, inevitably it will boil over at some point as it gets more competitive and the stakes get higher in the second half of the year,” he explained.
“But certainly what we’ve seen so far has been very respectful racing – hard racing but fair racing.”
Mercedes have struggled to adapt to the new technical regulations as a result of their “porpoising,” tyre warmup, handling, straight-line speed and multiple other issues that have been setting them back.
Their pace looked marginally better in Miami though, and Horner sticks to previous form by suggesting that it is only a matter of time before the Silver Arrows start fighting for wins again.
“I think you will see Mercedes joining that party fairly soon,” added the 48-year-old.
Verstappen’s victory in Miami puts him 19 points behind Leclerc in the Drivers’ Championship, while just six points separate Ferrari and Red Bull in the constructors’ championship.