Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have raced against each other for their entire career. Starting in go-karting, moving into Formula 3 in 2014 before the dutchman got a surprising promotion into F1 one year later.
After winning two races each, the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers have set the tone for the 2022 season and it looks like they could be the potential contenders to the world title.
They have fought wheel-to-wheel on several occasions, most notably in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and, for the time being, they have played it fair.
There have been no incidents, nor tension moments that required the stewards to intervene. This is definitely a big change compared to the stormy fight between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton towards the end of last season.
During the Emilia Romagna GP, Leclerc recalled that it had “always been very close” between him and Max in the junior ranks, causing a rivalry to brew between them.
“In karting, I remember it was either me or him, and that's why we hated each other at one point, because very often it didn't end in the best way possible,”
“But it was good times. I think we just have very, two very different styles of driving. Sometimes one will win, sometimes the other might, but it's fun. I like it,” Leclerc said.
Leclerc confessed that both he and Verstappen have “matured a lot” since their karting days, having both achieved their dream to race in F1.
“At that time, it was just a dream, everything looked impossible,” recalled the Monegasque.
“So it's great now to be fighting in Formula 1. And there's a lot of respect for each other. So yes, it has changed for sure.”
While avoiding answering questions suggesting there is more respect in Verstappen’s current fight than with Hamilton, Red Bull’s Team Principal Christian Horner felt that the history of Max has with Leclerc through his junior career has created respect.
“I think they've grown up racing each other in karting and so on, and they know each other very well,” Horner said.
“They come from the same generation, and there is a genuine respect between the two of them.”
Asked if he expected the battle between Leclerc and Verstappen to swing back and forth all season, Horner said: “Ferrari have got a great car, they've got great drivers. They've been unlucky [at Imola].
“But for sure they're going to be super competitive in two weeks' time [in Miami]. And I think it'll be like that for the whole season.”