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Charles Leclerc

Leclerc and Verstappen reveal when 'hate' turned to respect

Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen have spoken about their current rivalry, after the Monegasque revealed they used to "hate each other" in their younger days.

Leclerc Verstappen Saudi
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To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen have spoken about how their rivalry has matured over the years, as the two now fight for motorsport's ultimate prize in this year's Formula 1 World Championship.

Unlike Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, Leclerc is the same age as the Dutch driver and the pair raced against each other in the junior categories on their rise up the racing ladder.

A particularly famous video has circulated online, showing a young Verstappen and Leclerc at odds over an incident during a karting race, revealing some of the passion that has carried both into their current positions in F1.

Having had a number of wheel-to-wheel battles in the years since Leclerc landed his Ferrari seat in 2019, the Monegasque told media at Imola on Thursday that he and Verstappen had "hated each other".

"I think it's going to be very close, it's always been very close," Leclerc explained to the press, including RacingNews365.com.

"Especially in the junior categories, in karting, I remember it was either me or him, and that's why we hated each other at one point!

"Very often, it didn't end in the best way possible. But, yeah, it's good times, and in which parts I'm stronger or not, I don't know.

"I think we just have two very different styles of driving. Sometimes one will win, sometimes the other might. It's fun, I like it."

Leclerc: We've matured since then

Asked on Friday to expand on how his relationship with Verstappen has changed since their karting days, Leclerc said the teenage rivalry has matured into one of mutual respect.

"I think it's a very different situation," he explained.

"We have matured a lot, we are much older, even though we are still 25 years old, which is still quite young!

"But, at this time [in karting], there were episodes which made us hate each other on some occasions, but then you grow up.

"Obviously, we've both achieved one of our dreams, which was to arrive in F1. At that time, it was just a dream. Everything looked impossible, so it's great now to be fighting in F1.

"There's a lot of respect for each other. So, yes, it has changed, for sure!"

Verstappen: We can laugh about it now

Sitting alongside Leclerc for the press conference on Friday, Verstappen said it's now possible to laugh together about what happened during their younger days.

The pair's 2022 battles have been amicable, with both drivers congratulating each other after their long fight in Saudi Arabia, and Verstappen feels it's down to them simply becoming more mature since their teenage days.

"Like Charles said, we've matured a lot and we're both in F1," he explained.

"We're in two top teams and are fighting for race wins. What happened in karting, we can laugh about it now – good times!

"We basically grew up through karting from, I think, 12 years old. We were very similar in age, so we had a lot of karting battles.

"We made our way to F1. Of course, not only the two of us! A lot of drivers we'd know, including George [Russell], Carlos [Sainz] – we already saw each other at the karting tracks and now we're all here and basically fighting with top teams.

"It's really nice to see that and I hope it can continue for a long time."

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: Can fast but fragile Red Bull respond to Leclerc's charge?

RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look back over the Australian Grand Prix, where Ferrari's Charles Leclerc triumphed and Red Bull's Max Verstappen retired.

F1 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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