Charles Leclerc has revealed that he and Max Verstappen ‘hated each other at one point’ during their days of cartridges against each other as children.
The Ferrari man is competing with the current world champion for this year’s Formula 1 driver’s title, and the pair have been battling for victory in each of the three preliminary rounds of the season. However, the poor reliability of Verstappen’s Red Bull car means that he is a poor sixth place in the standings with a deficit of 46 points to the monegasque.
This is the first season Leclerc has driven a car capable of challenging race victories on a consistent basis since joining Ferrari in 2019, but it is not the beginning of his rivalry with the Dutchman, with their history stretching itself back over a decade.
Both men were born within a little over fourteen days in a row in 1997, and Leclerc finished second after Verstappen in 2013 in the CIK-FIA World KZ Championship in karting. The 24-year-old says his relationship with Verstappen was full of enmity at the time.
‘I think it’s getting very close, it’s always been very close,’ Leclerc told the media ahead of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola. ‘Especially in the junior categories, in go-karting, I remember it was either me or him and that was why we hated each other at one point!
“Very often it did not end in the best possible way. But yes, these are good times, and in which parts I am stronger or not, I do not know. I just think we have two very different driving styles. Sometimes one will ‘win, sometimes the other one might. It’s fun, I like it.’
Despite Verstappen missing a likely minimum of 36 points in the first three races of the campaign due to a few unrelated mechanical errors in Bahrain and Australia, the Dutchman is still considered the most likely challenger to Leclerc, who are enjoying of as many as 36 points led over Mercedes’ George Russell in the standings thanks to an excellent start to the season.
However, Leclerc believes that the dynamics between him and Verstappen have changed significantly since their teenage years.
“I think it’s a very different situation,” Leclerc explained. ‘We have become very mature, we are much older, even though we are still 25 years old, which is still quite young! But at this point [in karting]there were episodes that made us hate each other on some occasions, but then you grow up.
‘It’s clear that we have both achieved one of our dreams, which was to get into F1. At the time, it was just a dream. Everything looked impossible, so it’s great now to fight in F1. ‘
The fourth round of the 2022 Formula 1 season takes place this weekend at the Imola track in Italy.
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