Max Verstappen feels there is “a bit more respect” between Red Bull and Ferrari this year than he had with Mercedes in 2021, explaining that his long-standing relationship and rivalry with Charles Leclerc “helps a lot” in combat.
Verstappen’s battle against Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes reached boiling point several times last season, particularly after the two title rivals collided in dramatic circumstances at Silverstone.
This season, meanwhile, Verstappen and Leclerc have been able to race relatively cleanly throughout the year when they’ve been wheel-to-wheel, and the reigning champion feels things are “calmer” overall in 2022.
“I don’t think necessarily it was between the drivers, it was mainly because it’s a completely different approach between the teams last year and this year, and probably there was a bit more respect between the two teams as well this year,” Verstappen explained to Channel 4 when asked about the differences between this season and last.
“I think that helps a lot for sure, and I’ve known Charles for a longer time because we basically grew up together throughout racing and go karting, and all the way to Formula 1.
“But I always had [and] still have a lot of respect for Lewis and we always got on well, and also today, you know, as racing drivers, you know you come together but you also very quickly forget and just move on.
“The amount of times I’ve crashed with Charles in the past, but now we can laugh about it, so it just, you know racing drivers, they of course, look at themselves.
“We want to do everything we can to win a race and I think what is also the positive side about racing is that we can forget very quickly. We’ll just move on and just go to the next.
“Luckily, you also have a lot of races for that. But yeah, this year, it seems a little bit calmer, and I just hope it stays like that and you can just have a great race.”
Verstappen suffered an impact of 51G when he and Hamilton collided at Copse last season, and he reiterated his belief that Mercedes’ celebrations were unbecoming in the moment.
“A lot of points lost, a lot of damage as well to the car and I lost an engine,” Verstappen said of the aftermath of the Silverstone crash.
“So that eventually also gave me an engine penalty, you know, so there were a lot of consequences with that crash.
“At the time I thought, it’s not really personal, I just didn’t like the way the team mainly was celebrating it and things they were saying. Not my team, it was the other team.
“I don’t think it would have happened like that anyway, but yeah, I think it would have been a bit weird to celebrate like that,” he added when asked if he would have done anything differently this time around.
“But anyway, you know, I could talk about it forever. I think at the time it was not nice but again, you know, we were very motivated and fuelled for the rest of the season to give it everything we had because it was the first opportunity to really fight for a championship.
“And we were in good spirits even with that with that crash, you know. We rebuilt the car, we have the best mechanics out there and we go for it again.”
Max Verstappen earns 8.5/10 rating for damage limitation
Max Verstappen brought a wounded Red Bull home P7, but will have wanted more.