Charles Leclerc has “never forgiven” Max Verstappen for denying him a race victory in 2019 and the two drivers are set for an “interesting” rivalry in 2022, according to Sky Sports F1 analyst Anthony Davidson.
Ferrari driver Leclerc was engaged in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle with world champion Verstappen on his way to victory in Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Monegasque driver was overtaken by Verstappen three times at turn one, but used DRS at turn four to bring himself back into the race lead, bringing home a Ferrari one-two with his team-mate, Carlos Sainz.
Despite having raced each other since their go karting days, Davidson thinks the rivalry was fully ignited by a notorious incident from the 2019 Styrian Grand Prix when the Red Bull driver forced Leclerc off the track.
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He said: “I feel like this stems back to 2019 when they were in Austria at the Styrian Grand Prix and Max was hunting down Charles towards the end of the race.
“With two or three laps remaining he [Max] had a go at the turn-three 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 come into play in Bahrain.
“Max is going to have to rethink how he races him I think going forward from here. It is going to be interesting.”
After providing one of the most exciting moments of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Verstappen was forced to retire due to reliability issues, his team-mate Sergio Perez suffering the same fate in the final lap of the race.
This dramatic issue for Red Bull gave Lewis Hamilton a surprise place on the podium, his team-mate George Russell coming home in fourth.
Davidson, however, believes we may see a very different outcome at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with Red Bull coming back into the podium places.
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc battle for the lead of the Bahrain Grand Prix
“It was heartbreaking stuff, no one wants to be that driver, or if you are a fan of that driver, to see them go out in that kind of fashion so late on in the race and it diluted a lot of the action as well from the fans’ point of view.
“It is a bitter blow, especially in the first race of the season, not just for Max but for Red Bull as well and obviously he wasn’t alone it was Perez as well literally on the last lap where his car failed and spun him out of contention and out of the race in turn one, but they have got a fast car and that is the most important thing.
“It is far easier to make a fast car reliable than a reliable car fast.
“Jeddah is a fast flowing track, very smooth and I do expect there to be a shake up in the order naturally.
“Perhaps Mercedes will be a bit closer to the front of the competition for example, they may be able to run their car lower to the ground which is a bit of an Achilles’ heel for them.
“Maybe Red Bull will be the best car in Jeddah and Ferrari will be lagging just that bit behind.”