Former F1 driver Karun Chandhok believes Max Verstappen is racing Charles Leclerc as an “equal”, rather than what his battles with Lewis Hamilton were like to try to “dethrone” the seven-time world champion.
The duels between Verstappen and Hamilton were sometimes fierce last season, with the two having contact several times, with the Red Bull driver in particular being criticized for the effort he sometimes made to stay in position against Hamilton.
The title fight continued all the way to the final round in Abu Dhabi, where the Dutchman under dramatic circumstances broke the Mercedes driver’s run of four World Championships in a row.
But the racing between Verstappen and Leclerc, who had rivalries with each other during their karting days, has been ‘clean’ so far this year as they battled for position.
And that could be due to a number of factors, including Verstappen taking the world title and the fact that he and Leclerc have been “colleagues” for a long time, according to former Lotus and HRT driver Chandhok.
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) June 22, 2022
“We talked about it, I think, after Saudi. I still believe he actually races Leclerc differently than how he raced Lewis last year because I think he was trying to establish himself against Lewis, right?” Chandhok said on Sky F1.
“You know, Lewis was the incumbent, the king of the castle, and Max had to go, or felt he had to, to basically dethrone him and get his elbows out a little more.
“While at Leclerc they grew up like peers, and I feel like Max doesn’t feel like he has to, you know, knock him off that pedestal.
“He sees Leclerc as an equal to someone he’s raced with since they were kids and so there’s less ‘elbows’ in the way they race each other and it’s cleaner.
“They give each other more space and maybe it’s maturity and having that World Cup, but I think there’s definitely a shift in mentality.”
Verstappen currently leads Leclerc by 49 points in the World Championship, after swinging 95 points in his favor in the past six races, with five wins in that time.
However, the Ferrari driver is not ruling out his chances of getting back into the fray and says two race wins will put him back in the hunt.