We are witnessing the dominance of Red Bull over F1 with their star driver Max Verstappen who has already achieved two podiums at the Bahrain and Saudi Arabia Grand Prix respectively. But they are facing head-to-head competition from Ferrari. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen have been racing since they were young, and have been in constant competition with one another.
Although Charles Leclerc received a grid penalty at the Saudi Arabia GP and faced a step back, he will leave no stone unturned when it comes to outperforming the Dutch driver from Red Bull. Certain speculations might say that their rivalry began in 2019, but little do they know it goes a long way back to their karting days.
Max Verstappen-Charles Leclerc rivalry
Charles Leclerc started karting at the age of four, continuing on the racing driver legacy of his father. He soon demonstrated a natural affinity for the game, and by the time he was 14 years old, he was already participating at the highest level possible. Leclerc defeated a group of excellent young drivers, including Max Verstappen, to win the 2013 CIK-FIA KF3 World Cup.
Karting began early for Max Verstappen as well, precisely at the age of four. He rapidly made a name for himself in the sport as a rising star by taking home numerous titles and breaking age-related records. Verstappen and Leclerc faced off at the World Cup in 2013 as Leclerc was also a KF3 competitor. Verstappen came in second, but the two drivers’ future rivalry was already underway.
Big congratulations @Max33Verstappen for winning your second world championship.— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) October 9, 2022
Today wasn’t a great day for us, way too much degradation.
We’ll keep pushing until the end no matter what. pic.twitter.com/4KNW5WOdBw
Leclerc and Verstappen’s antagonism persisted as they rose through the motorsport’s junior divisions. They both made their single-seater Formula Renault debuts in 2014, with Verstappen standing out for his speed and racing prowess. Leclerc, on the other hand, was becoming more proficient and seasoned while also showing signs of having the ability to become a star.
Max Verstappen entered European Formula 3 right away, and by the summer, both Red Bull and Mercedes were interested in signing him. He chose Red Bull, and in March 2015, he competed in his first F1 race. Verstappen burst into the Formula 1 scene like a thunderbolt. He moved quickly, aggressively, and without mercy. He later developed into a very well-rounded racer and team leader.
Charles Leclerc had an alternate direction. He acquired his knowledge and skills in junior formulae. He lost his father in the middle of his F2 season soon after losing his godfather and mentor, Jules Bianchi. But he managed to maintain his composure, control his feelings, and grow stronger as a result and made his way into F1 with Sauber in 2018.
2022 Season: The showdown
It all began with the Bahrain Grand Prix of 2022 when Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez were forced to withdraw late due to reliability concerns, leaving Red Bull pointless and Ferrari with an opening one-two. Leclerc took the pole and engaged in thrilling wheel-to-wheel clashes in their place. Leclerc consequently dominated the first round.
Throughout the season, it was a cutthroat competition between Verstappen and Leclerc where one would come out victorious and the latter would catch up in a flash. Verstappen eventually went on to win the American Grand Prix in Austin, tying Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher for the most victories in a season.
MAX VERSTAPPEN WINS THE UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX!! 🇺🇸🥇 pic.twitter.com/GIMXmHN2Gc— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) October 23, 2022
At this point, Ferrari’s performance would deteriorate as Mercedes began to pose a greater danger to Red Bull after Hamilton placed second in Texas and Leclerc had to settle for third. Verstappen would put things right in Abu Dhabi, dominating the entire weekend to take home his 15th victory of the year and the season ended with the Dutch driver amassing 454 points with Charles Leclerc being 146 points behind.
To Max, his rivalry with the Monegasque seems ‘natural’ and it seems to be nothing less than healthy competition between the two in becoming world champions.