Max Verstappen openly admits his championship battle with Ferrari and Charles Leclerc this year is more enjoyable than the fraught and ultra-intense contest of 2021.
The Dutchman and Red Bull’s fight with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes was one of the closest, bitterest and most controversial in years – but the reigning world champion says it didn’t change him.
“How did it change me? At the level of me as a person, not at all,” the 24-year-old told Sky Italia’s Mara Sangiorgio. “I love to race and I like doing it with my team and I want to keep doing it as long as possible.
“If I look back to when I started, it was all new. Now, after years of experience, mistakes and positive things, I have learned a lot. I understand Formula 1 much better.
“However, you are never perfect – you can always learn and do better.”
Verstappen is relieved, however, that although locked in another title battle with a talented rival in 2022, it is not once again with Hamilton and Mercedes.
“I prefer the current challenge with Charles over the past years with Lewis,” he admitted.
“I know Charles very well, he’s a good guy and we’re the same age. We’re also fighting against a respectable opponent like Ferrari. If they win, we can congratulate them and if we win, they can do the same.
“We also know the people in their team well – even Mattia Binotto, who I have an excellent relationship with. And not just him – Gino Rosato is always around making jokes which I think is fantastic and the meaning of racing.
“Tough competition on the track, always trying to beat the opponent, but outside you can get along. That is what I really appreciate about the current season,” Verstappen said.
He said the current situation with Leclerc and Ferrari stands in stark contrast to what happened in 2021.
“Let’s put it this way,” said Max. “I wouldn’t spend my Saturday night at the same table laughing with them. I don’t know why.
“But the relationship I have at the moment with Ferrari is nice and in general I always have respect for Ferrari.”