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Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc relishing roles as hunter and hunted in F1 title fight

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Charles Leclerc leads the Formula 1 drivers’ championship, but Max Verstappen is catching him quickly. (Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc say they are both enjoying their respective roles as hunter and hunted in the early stages of the fight for the 2022 Formula 1 world championship.

The Red Bull driver took a second successive victory at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix on Sunday evening to cut the Ferrari man’s lead at the top of standings down to 19 points with five rounds of the season completed.

That was the Dutchman’s third victory of the season as he maintained his record of winning every race he has finished in 2020, with mechanical failures in Bahrain and Australia costing him a likely minimum of two second place finishes and 36 points which would have him ahead of Leclerc as things stand. Those two races were both won by the Monegasque, who was leading before Verstappen’s RB18 encountered reliability trouble.

At the most recent grand prixs in Florida and Imola the Red Bull has been significantly quicker than the Ferrari on race pace, and Verstappen has taken wins at both circuits despite qualifying behind his rival. On both occasions the superior straight line speed of the Red Bull, combining higher engine power with a lower downforce setup, has given the Ferrari now chance to defend.

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Despite Verstappen’s frustration with his squad’s reliability problems, and Leclerc’s concern that the Scuderia’s machinery is slower as thing stand, both men are relishing the positions they are currently in.

‘I think we have been in only one position since the beginning of the season, which means we are hunted for now,’ said Leclerc after the race.

‘I quite like this position to be honest, because it means that you are doing something right. But it is also true that it’s two races that the gap is slowly closing down. But yeah, I don’t I don’t really mind to be honest whichever position I am in. I just want to be the most competitive out there, and at the moment, it seems that Red Bull has the upper hand in the in the races.’

For Verstappen the change from last season, when he was being chased down by the faster Lewis Hamilton in the final few races of a thrilling campaign, is a welcome one.

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc seem set to engage in a season long battle for the title. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

‘I like the position I’m in at the moment, knowing that the car is quick,’ Verstappen said. ‘And for example, end of last year, of course, I was the one who was being hunted. And that was actually not a great position because I knew that we didn’t have the pace anymore. I knew it was going to be very tricky to the end. So yeah, just depends a bit of how competitive you are as well.’

The sixth round of the 2022 F1 season takes place at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on the weekend of 20-22 May.

Lewis Hamilton questions Mercedes team over strategy confusion at F1 Miami Grand Prix

Toto Wolff won’t rule out shock Mercedes move which could make its F1 car ‘much slower’

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