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Leclerc vs Verstappen: Future Rivals

Some analysis of Leclerc and Verstappen driving style and how important "team support" is to the young men?

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Leclerc vs Verstappen: Future Rivals
Fuente imagen: F1.com website

The Austrian Grand Prix was round number nine of the 2019 season and was one of many races that will be well remembered for many years. A race that was mainly contested between two young men who battled to cross the chequered flag first while they left drivers with a combined total of 10 world champions behind them.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc have made history as the youngest Grand Prix front row in Formula 1 to battle at the age of 21 years old for each driver.

It was the home GP of recently passed away Niki Lauda, and the first Austrian GP since we lost him last month. A positive vibe all around the drivers especially for Max Verstappen, supported by his “Orange Army” and who was racing at a circuit that Red Bull has renamed a corner for Niki Lauda’s name at their eponymous circuit in Austria. A beautiful way to remember a hero!

However, after Leclerc had led a phenomenal race behind the wheel of the Ferrari with no mistakes and being the fastest driver for the whole weekend and scoring the second pole position of his Formula 1 career, the race was won in a glimpse by Verstappen passing Leclerc in turn three just before three laps before the race ends on an intense and exciting wheel-to-wheel battle. Ultimately, both drivers are taking a prominent place in the sport as the youngest generation of championship challengers.

Well, both are 21 in age, but what are the other differences between these two young drivers and champions to be?

If we talk about their driving skills, the Monégasque graduated from Ferrari's Driver Academy and became an F1 driver in 2017 with Sauber after he won the titles of GP3 Series championship in 2016 and the FIA Formula 2, consecutively. Everyone knew that Leclerc was a true revelation and a highly-rated driver with astonishing speed and an extremely focused mind. He does extract everything from the car, throughout qualifying, and in race conditions too. He is also a quick driver at most types of circuits on the F1 calendar, from street circuits to high-speed tracks, including those he'd never visited before. What a quick learner he is! Without a doubt, he is definitely a future world championship challenger someday.

It’s very impressive when Leclerc is attacking and defending especially when the positioning and controlling correctly the car to keep it in the lead as we have seen in Austria, exactly in lap 68 when he defended his position from Verstappen and kept the lead, It’s seen that Leclerc has a genuine racing etiquette, with a clear understanding of what's acceptable in racing. But what makes Leclerc weak in some points in his career with Ferrari is that poor strategies with a non-competitive car and many other management issues from the team.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has declared lately that his team won't be as competitive every racing weekend as it was last weekend in Austria. “Will we be able to fight, to battle on all the tracks? I don’t think yet. There are still tracks where it will be more difficult for us." He said.

Charles was seeking his first good victory chance since the Bahrain GP this year, also he did his utmost in Baku to take advantage of a strong Ferrari circuit but lost it all on the qualifying day. And then when the chance came once more at Spielberg the expectant victory for the Monégasque has been delayed once again.

Although Max has a less competitive car than Leclerc’s, what’s behind the Maximum Performance of Max?

Talking about Verstappen’s driving style, Max is a very aggressive driver unlike Leclerc, some even say he is dangerous. However, the Dutch young man has been hired at such a young age in 2016’s F1 season coming up straight away from Formula 3 after he finished only third in the championship. This season, he is starting to show better race craft and judgment while not losing his incredible natural speed which has marked him as one of the best in F1 today.

Now, as he entered his fifth F1 campaign, Max is never scared of pushing rules to their limit just like many great drivers in golden days. In fact, Verstappen has secrets in producing unbelievable speed in a smooth and flowing style. It's very hard to point him out when did he move from a straight line to release the brakes and turning towards the apex!!! What a subtle move he has!

That move was the decisive moment for him passing Leclerc on lap 69 at the Austrian GP and as he did it on many occasions and with different conditions too. Just like what he did in the Brazilian GP 2016 in a wet condition passing Sebastian Vettel. Nevertheless, the Dutch young man has full support from the whole team, one by one; from the highest point in the management hierarchy of the team on down to the bottom.

That huge support gives a mental positive attitude; supercharging his personal development and his confidence. That’s why Verstappen has won his first GP in Spain with Red Bull Racing in his debut, unlike Leclerc who has been receiving from Ferrari their well-known “team orders” starting from his debut race with them this season. We all know that Ferrari said they would favor Vettel in 50-50 situations this season as he is a more experienced driver and a four-time world champion after all. Leclerc will have to go with the flow and wait for the many other chances to come soon, he has to be solid as he is now!

On the other hand, we know that Daniel Ricciardo left Red Bull last year as he feared to be a ”supporting role” for little Max who has been growing in many aspects in the sport, one reason why he departed to Renault. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said “ I respected Ricciardo's wish to have a “leading role”, perhaps in a smaller environment".

Formula 1 had become through the 21-race 2019 season’s first nine races due to 8 flat-out dominance by Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport and one Red Bull by Max Verstappen.

All in all, both drivers are great natural talents but in somewhat different ways. Looking at the way each of them has adapted from their racing culture. Both are very successful drivers, young and smart. The only thing that will define any driver’s bright future is to be a "leading role" or not to be a "leading role", that’s the big question.

Furthermore, the young Leclerc has been quick at most types of the circuit on the F1 calendar, from street circuits to high-speed tracks, including those he'd never visited before. Leclerc is undoubtedly a quick learner, comparing strongly with his teammate Vettel already and that puts him in a solid position when moving from Sauber to Ferrari in 2019.

Each driver has already demonstrated that they certainly have the talent needed to compete for wins and championships at racing’s highest level.

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