“Leclerc is a future world champion, and I think we will not have to wait long. I do not exclude that he can achieve that goal even before Verstappen.”
Let us just build on this strong statement from Felipe Massa - who recently released an interview to motorsport.com - and reflect on the presumed rivalry between Verstappen and Leclerc.
The two have a long history together stretching back to their karting days, when they first bumped into each other (quite literally). And as they finally crossed paths in F1, the impact of having two 22-year-old drivers whose talent just screams ‘championship material’ automatically generated an overhyped bitter rivalry. Caution, though. The conflict between the two drivers, who were often pictured as two titans fighting through grueling on-track battles, has to be more mediatic than it seems.
As it shines through Massa’s affirmations, it is normal to compare the two drivers. They literally embody the strong characters F1 has been longing for since the beginning of the V6 turbo era, when lackluster races enhanced the need for spunky attitudes in the sport to spice things up. Additionally, their impressive debuts in a top team certainly obliterate their one-way tickets to the F1 spotlight in the near future.
The nurturing process of a young talent in F1 is now sped up to the point that a rookie can usually be top-team ready in less than two seasons. That is indeed the case with both Leclerc and Verstappen, as the latter won his first race with Red Bull and the former broke pole position-related records at his second race for Ferrari. That eventually puts them on the same level as per career analogies, but as it stands, Leclerc’s improvement rate and post summer break momentum have stolen the show in 2019. The Leclerc-mania took over control amongst the F1 community, after the strong build-up and promotion of his character throughout the months prior to his Ferrari debut. What amazed the most from the Monegasque was his sudden ability not to back down against a four-time world champion starting his 5th season with the team.
The aura of a fearless Leclerc, who was never afraid to speak up and notify the team whenever he was upset, made his character even more endearing to the eyes of the F1 community. Plus, his terminator fashion from his Prema days to his current stint at Ferrari makes his future look extremely promising and bright, as you can see an untamed competitive spirit popping out his visor.
However, it would be a leap in the dark if we were to bet who, between Leclerc and Verstappen, will become world champion first. One thing is for certain: an interesting rivalry is shaping up for the future and F1 could not be in better hands.