Former Formula 1 driver Anthony Davidson reckons that Charles Leclerc still has the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix on his mind amid what could be a thrilling title battle between himself and Max Verstappen this season.
Verstappen and Leclerc butted heads before their Formula 1 careers even began when they battled it out for a karting victory in their junior days.
The Dutchman was visibly inflamed by an incident in which he perceived the now 24-year-old had pushed him off the circuit.
“He’s just unfair,” Verstappen said.
“I’m leading, he wants to pass, he pushed me, I pushed him back and after he pushed me off the track. It’s not fair.”
Leclerc was a lot more coy on the matter, saying “nothing [happened], just an incident on [sic] the race.”
From that moment, it will have been suspected that the pair would go on to have success in racing; they have always displayed themselves as hard, aggressive drivers with pace in enormous quantities.
They then fought for the victory at the Austrian Grand Prix over two years ago and, having made a dreadful start to the race, Verstappen recovered back up the order to hunt down the Ferrari driver for the win.
At the second time of asking, he got the job done, but his victory was not confirmed until after the race while the stewards investigated him making contact the Monegasque on the exit of Turn three.
The pair have engaged in a thrilling duel in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the 2022 season, and Davidson suggests that there is a bit of bad blood between them.
“I feel like this stems back to 2019 when they were in Austria, and Max was hunting down Charles towards the end of the race,” he said.
“With two or three laps remaining he (Max) had a go at the Turn 3 hairpin, didn’t make it stick the first time because he didn’t really squeeze Charles and gave him room around the outside and Charles came back and that was all fair.
“The next lap, however, he pushed him off the track and I don’t think Charles has ever forgiven him for that.
“I think Charles, every time he is with Max now, treats him differently and that’s what I immediately say came into play in Bahrain.
“Max will have to rethink how he races him, I think, going forward from here. It will be interesting.”
Ferrari scored a one-two in Sakhir as Carlos Sainz came home second behind Leclerc, and Verstappen suffered a mechanical failure along with team-mate Sergio Perez in the closing stages.
The Briton recognises that, though it will have been a disenchanting end to the grand prix, the Milton Keynes side can take heart from the fact that they have built a strong race car under the new technical regulations.
“It was a bitter blow, but they have a fast car and that’s the most important thing,” said Davidson.
“It’s far easier to make a fast car reliable than a reliable car fast.”
Regarding any love lost between himself and Leclerc, Verstappen maintained ahead of the race in Jeddah that he had a lot of fun in the first round of the season, describing the Monegasque as “not stupid” as they deployed supreme intelligence during their battle for the win.
“I’ve known Charles bit longer,” he told Paul Di Resta.
“So I’ve raced him already many times right? But, I mean everyone races hard I think and everyone is a little bit different in their style, but I have to say I really enjoyed what was going on in Bahrain.
“For sure, every driver has this tiny different way of how they defend or attack, but it’s fine you just adapt to it.”
Verstappen took victory from Leclerc in the latter stages in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, and both drivers emphasised the respect they have for one another.