Verstappen v Leclerc heralded as great ‘advert’ for F1

Sam Cooper
Charles Leclerc laughs with Max Verstappen after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Saudi Arabia, March 2022.

The blossoming rivalry between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc has been labelled as a great advert for Formula 1 by former driver Jan Lammers.

After being denied a close finish in Bahrain due to Verstappen’s car failure, fans were treated to what could prove to be one of the closest races of the season in Saudi Arabia.

Verstappen overtook race leader Leclerc only to be re-overtaken as the Ferrari driver made the most of the DRS before the Dutchman eventually made the move stick and secured the win.

Even after only two races, the pair are looking likely to be the main contenders for this year’s Drivers’ Championship – and Lammers believes it was a great advert for the sport.

“It was a very nice race,” he told motorsport.com. “It was an advertisement for motorsport and also a signal that F1 is going the right way.

“They found a very nice balance, one in which being careful with each other was paramount. You could already see that at the start.

“Max was in his usual attack mode, but the Ferraris also gave him room. It’s like the old days with these youngsters, when you used to punch each other after a good race.”

The former F1 driver, who started 23 races, said he could see the difference between the rivalry of Leclerc and Verstappen and that of Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

“Both Max and Charles, especially with Charles we have seen in the past, are very honest and transparent when they make a mistake. Charles also has no hidden agenda or political games,” said Lammers.

“Of course, if they are equal in the championship with three races to go they might also say things to get into the other’s head, but now there is still mutual respect and that is nice to see.

“The other way around, we also see Hamilton not making any statements to get into other people’s heads. He is on his own and in his own team. He doesn’t need to say things to upset others because he has other things on his mind.”

The use of DRS was a deciding factor in the Jeddah battle and both drivers locked up in an attempt to be second in the detection zone before the main straight. Lammers, however, hopes DRS is not around for much longer.

“I hope DRS is abolished in time – this is democratising the sport. But I think [Red Bull’s less downforce] also has to do with the nature of both cars,” he said.

“Max first had some problems at the front and suffered from understeer. That normally takes a lot of time and is not what you want, but now it worked out quite well in the final stages.

“Red Bull seemed to have understeer, while the Ferrari looked well balanced at the start. But as the tyres wore down, the rear of the car started to lose momentum.

 

“A fraction of understeer at Red Bull meant the car actually got better balanced as the tyres went away at the back, while the Ferrari got a little off balance as traction and grip literally slipped away.

“It was all about the long game, so managing the pace towards the end. But I think at Ferrari they draw the conclusion ‘maybe we played this too passively at the beginning’.

“I think they should have played more power play at an earlier stage.

“In my opinion, there was more in the Ferrari at the beginning and they let the race come down to the final phase with a bit too much self-confidence. In hindsight, they played the long game a little too much.”

 

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix highlights

The Saudi Arabian GP once again provided us with a fantastic race, with Max Verstappen having to work hard for his win.