Years ago, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen hated each other in karting times, and their fierce duels often went off track. Now both drivers have the utmost respect and everything to celebrate an era in F1.

Łukasz Kuczera

Charles Leclerc (left) and Max Verstappen

PRESS MATERIAL / RED BULL / Pictured: Charles Leclerc (left) and Max Verstappen

When Max Verstappen fought a fierce championship battle with Lewis Hamilton a year ago, we witnessed many unhealthy situations. After the Dutch Mercedes driver was kicked off the track at the UK Grand Prix, their relationship turned disastrous as both sides accused themselves of disrespect on numerous occasions. There have also been arguments about unequal treatment by judges.

Do similar images threaten us in the 2022 season? It does not appear yet. Lewis Hamilton was eliminated from the title fight thanks to a very uncompetitive Mercedes, and Charles Leclerc became Max Verstappen’s main challenger. Currently, Monaco is 27 points ahead of the current Formula 1 world champion.

The situation is different from last F1 season as Verstappen and Leclerc are peers. They are both 24 years old, they have competed in karting together and there have already been loud quarrels between them several times.

From hate to respect

Our duel will be very even, it’s always been this way. Especially in the lower series, I can still remember our karting competition. It always ended up being me or him. At one point, we hated each other – Leclerc told reporters on the occasion of GP Emilia Romagna.

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Right after his promotion to F1, Verstappen showed himself as a driver who drives very recklessly, sometimes very difficult. It was similar in karting. Leclerc is not very different from the Dutchman, which was noticeable in 2019, when the Red Bull Racing and Ferrari drivers fought very fierce battles several times.

Already in karting, our duels often end in a way that they shouldn’t. Those were good times. Once I was better, it was once. We have different driving styles and sometimes one wins, sometimes the other. It’s similar in F1 now. It’s a lot of fun for me,” Leclerc added.

Verstappen and Leclerc have performed several times this yearVerstappen and Leclerc have performed several times this year

According to the Ferrari driver, along with Verstappen, he needed some contact situations in his teenage years to earn respect for his rival, which affects their current behavior towards each other in F1. – Now we are mature. We are much older and will be 25 years old soon. In karting, we may hate each other after some situations, but in the end you grow up and change – Monacan values.

A different fight with Hamilton

When Verstappen battled Hamilton, he wasn’t afraid to use aggressive maneuvers, usually due to the fact that Red Bull had a worse car than Mercedes. This set out a steeper journey for the Dutchman. In turn, the Briton was not accustomed to defeats, as well as to wheeled duels with his rival in the fight for the title. During the years of Mercedes control, he had no such concerns.

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This year’s duels between Verstappen and Leclerc are very different from the one the Dutchman gave us with Hamilton in 2021. Even in Saudi Arabia, the Red Bull driver didn’t push his rival beyond the track, leaving him enough space each time. One could argue that Leclerc was more aggressive in his behaviour.

– We are in the top two teams, fighting for victories in the races. A lot has happened in karting, and now we can laugh about it. We grew up with those races. “We were twelve at the time,’ said Verstappen, “and we had many fights.

Verstappen and Leclerc.  Who will become the world champion this year?Verstappen and Leclerc. Who will become the world champion this year?

In his karting days, Dutchman George Russell also had a contender. For now, the young Briton has to deal with problems at Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton still coveting alongside the team captain’s title. However, Russell, 24, is the tune of the future. The driver from King’s Lynn dreams of joining Leclerc’s battle with Verstappen.

Many karting competitors are now in Formula One. They’re all in the big teams, it’s big. The Red Bull driver said I look forward to these duels and hope they continue for years to come.

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