Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has revealed that his simmering rivalry with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen dates back to their earliest clashes in races as children.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Italia F1, Leclerc talked about the days when the pair initially competed against each other as kids in karting – and really didn’t get on even then.
“When we were little, we couldn’t stand each other,” Leclerc admitted. “But with time, we are more mature now, we talk and there has been great progress.
“Max is a good guy but in the end, when we put our helmets on, it brings back the competition that was there back in the karting days.”
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The pair have already clashed on track several times since they came into contact again in Formula 1.
This season saw Verstappen prematurely exit the Sakhir Grand Prix after an incident between Leclerc and eventual race winner Sergio Perez ended up forcing him off track and into the barrier.
Stewards blamed Leclerc and gave him a three-place grid penalty for the season finale at Abu Dhabi. Verstappen himself condemned the incident as “totally unnecessary” and “stupid” as part of an ill-tempered media exchange following the race.
The Dutch driver concluded: “No point trying to just have a kind of a bitch fight and keep going on talking to each other. It doesn’t matter.”
For his part, Leclerc accepted the penalty and said at the time: “I think I didn’t give much choice to the stewards basically.
“It happens that sometimes it just doesn’t go my way,” he added. “I’ll try to choose the fights better.
“Gaining a position to Max was not going to bring us anywhere in a better position, because Max was anyway quicker than us. But anyway, it’s the past, I’ll learn from it, and that’s it.”
The speed difference between the two cars has been apparent throughout 2020, with Verstappen and Red Bull coming out comprehensively on top over Leclerc and Ferrari in both the drivers and constructors championships.
Leclerc says he knew which way the wind was blowing very early on in the year, right from the time that the teams hit the track for the first time in pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“After Barcelona testing, I think we all knew that something was not quite right,” he told Motorsport.com, adding that “the reality was obvious” after the first race in Austria.
“During the season, even though it was very difficult to accept the situation … we worked very hard, and we worked in a constructive way.
“We improved from that moment onwards. It was small steps but small steps in the right direction – that’s not always a given in F1.
“I think we’ve learned a lot from this season, and I think that we will only come back stronger. I hope that we can show that on track next year.”
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