Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc’s frenzied battle at the climax of the F1 Saudi Arabian GP set the tone for what’s shaping up as an incredible rivalry for 2022.
With both drivers playing a game of cat-and-mouse, one tactic clearly shone through – swooping in with DRS.
Leclerc used DRS to his advantage in the late stages of the race, timing it perfectly to reel in the Red Bull.
But he showed his hand a bit too early, with Verstappen realising the tactic could be used against his rival in the Ferrari.
After the race, Leclerc told Sky Sports he is well aware Verstappen “understands” his DRS tactics that kept him in front for so long.
Leclerc would let Verstappen pass him in corners, and then use DRS to take back his position on the straight immediately afterwards.
“I knew my weakness was straight-line speed compared to the Red Bulls,” Leclerc said.
“It worked once and then the second time he understood so he braked very early. It was fun, I like the racing like this – the new regulations are definitely working.”
There was a lot of argy-bargy during that race and some was directly caused by Leclerc’s DRS mind games to try and disrupt Verstappen.
Leclerc added: “It was tricky today. I will look back at the race but I don’t think there was much more I could do. One opportunity we missed with the yellow flags in Turn 1, so we didn’t have the DRS there which could have been an opportunity to be alongside Max at the end of the straight.
“We are working very well as a team. I think the only thing would have been a lower downforce level.”
Their rivalry stems right back to the two drivers’ go-karting days together, so we’re not surprised that Verstappen was able to cotton on so fast to Leclerc’s tactics.
Red Bull’s F1 world champion said: “It’s super-close between us. You have to be patient as I want to win and score points.
“We have a lot of respect for each other, which is why we have these good battles.”
Round 3 – Australia (April 8-10)
Round 4 – Italy (April 22-24)
Round 5 – United States (May 6-8)
Round 6 – Spain (May 20-22)
Round 7 – Monaco (May 27-29)
Round 8 – Azerbaijan (June 10-12)
Round 9 – Canada (June 17-19)
Round 10 – Great Britain (July 1-3)
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Round 14 – Belgium (26-28)
Round 15 – Netherlands (September 2-4)
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Round 17 – Singapore (September 30 – October 2)
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Round 22 – Abu Dhabi (November 18-20)