Jenson Button highlights one important difference between Leclerc and Verstappen

In an exclusive interview with Total-Motorsport.com, 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button had his say on the rivalry between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc

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Former Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button believes the only difference between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen is that the Red Bull driver is generally more aggressive.

Leclerc and Verstappen have gone wheel to wheel in the opening four events of the season and are set to be the two main title protagonists in this year’s championship.

“I think Max goes for every opportunity,” Button exclusively told Total-Motorsport.com. “When overtaking, for example, he is a bit more aggressive [than Leclerc].

“It works for him though, he’s got a unique style and that’s the difference. They’re both extremely skilled but I think what Max can do with a balance that isn’t good is insane.

“He can drive a very oversteery car very quickly. All of his teammates have struggled with that so he’s got a unique style and I think we’ve seen that over the years.”

A rivalry reborn

Verstappen and Leclerc are two generational talents with a rivalry that dates back to the 2012 WSK Euro Series in karting.

In F1, there have been minor clashes, particularly in 2019 at the Austrian and British Grand Prix when neither driver wanted to back down.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates winning Saudi Arabia GP with second placed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

However, this year’s title race has been fought, so far, in good spirits and it’s something Button would like to see continue although he’s weary that an incident could be just around the corner.

“It’s great to have these two fighting for a championship,” said Button. “They’ve known each other for years, they raced against each other in karting and had lots of incidents together then.

“I think Charles understands Max, a lot more than maybe Lewis [Hamilton] did because he’s raced with him more through the years of junior formulas.”

Button on Leclerc

Leclerc leads Verstappen by 27 points in the F1 driver standings, despite finishing sixth at the Emilia Romagna GP after he made a mistake when pushing to try and attack Sergio Perez for second place.

It was the first mistake Leclerc has made in 2022 as he took two sensational wins in Bahrain and Australia and narrowly lost out to Verstappen in Saudi Arabia.

“Charles seems very calm,” continued Button. “Max is throwing everything at him and Charles seems very relaxed behind the wheel and picking his moments.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during Emilia Romagna Grand Prix qualifying REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/Pool

“He’s really strong and I think in a car like that, which is very, very competitive, it’s difficult to beat but if anyone can, it’ll be Max.

“The Red Bull is still a strong car. We might see Mercedes more competitive in the latter part of the season, but it’s going to take a few races before they they are able to be up there. It’s a fun season so far, I like the new regulation changes.”

Button on the state of F1

F1 has been blessed with young talent in recent years with Carlos Sainz, George Russell and Lando Norris all making a name for themselves with impressive performances and moments.

The sport appears to be thriving, arguably more so than ever, with a quality field, a growing fanbase and new venues joining the F1 calendar, including the Las Vegas GP from 2023.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and others in action during 2022 Australian GP REUTERS/Loren Elliott

When asked whether F1 is in the best place it’s been for a long time, Button said he thinks it is.

“I think it’s in a great place,” added Button. “It’s got a good following from the hardcore motorsport fans that have been there for decades but also there’s a new crowd of fans which is good.

“The sport is in a fantastic place – with three races in USA next year, that’s a big deal for the sport. It’s the one country that we struggled to crack so it’s great that Formula 1 has and it’s great that the fan bases are growing.”

Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiuhttps://total-motorsport.com/author/nigel-chiu/
Nigel Chiu is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who worked at Total-Motorsport for 18 months until May 2023. He has been following F1 since 2007 and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix weekend since. Nigel’s worked with several motorsport websites, plus Eurosport and subsequently went on to work with Sky Sports F1 where he travels to multiple F1 races each season.
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