Touches on the karting tracks and exchange of statements: this is how the duel between Verstappen and Leclerc was born, which today has Formula 1 under its spell

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on a karting podium (@F1)

the duel between Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and charles leclerc (Ferrari) stole the spotlight at the start of the season of the Formula 1. Both are 24 years old and it is possible that these battles will last for a long time: the head-to-head will have its third episode of 2022 this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix. But this hand in hand was born a decade ago, when both fought in various karting championships. There were touches and even spicy and ironic statements when they were teenagers.

In the 72 years of the Máxima there were duels that marked its history. From his early days with Juan Manuel Fangio vs. Alberto Ascari. In the following decade it was the turn of Graham Hill vs. Jim Clark. In the seventies with Jackie Stewart vs. Emerson Fittipaldi Y Niki Lauda vs. James Hunt. In the eighties and early nineties it was the hardest of all times, Ayrton Senna vs. Alain Prost. Later those who had Michael Schumacher with Jacques Villeneuve (1997), and Mika Hakkinen (1998/1999) with Fernando Alonso (2005/2006). The last years were marked by those in which she starred Lewis Hamilton with Sebastian Vettel, in part of 2017, 2018 and 2019; and the last of the English with Verstappen, who defined the 2021 title in favor of the Dutch.

The peculiarity of Verstappen vs. Leclerc is that the two have known each other since they were very young. Today they show themselves with the maturity and professionalism that being in the great circus implies. Without being friends, there is mutual respect and that was demonstrated by the greeting between the two after the fight on the track they had in Saudi Arabia on the last date. At the start in Bahrain they also fought for victory. Charles arrives at this third date in Australia as the leader of the championship (45 points) and Max is third (25). Among them is the other ferrarista, Carlos Sainz (33).

Both were exponents of the Red Bull driver development programs, in the case of Verstappen, and Ferrari, on the Leclerc side. Since the Monegasque made his debut at the Scuderia in 2019, there have already been encounters on the track with the Dutchman, such as the one that occurred in Austria. They are from the generation of simulators, but their strongest training was in karting, the school par excellence of motorsports, where their first battles took place. With different styles sparks were drawn: Verstappen, more aggressive and Leclerc, more conservative, but no less fast.

They are both sons of pilots. the remembered Herve Leclerc Between 1983 and 1988 he ran 22 Formula 3 competitions and Joseph Verstappen he competed in F1 between 1994 and 2003. Charles (10/16/1997) is only 16 days younger than Max (09/30/1997), but he started karting at the age of eight, when Max at four and a half he already got on one and was always accompanied by his father, who had strict methods in its beginnings.

However, at international level both made their international karting debut in KF3 in 2010, a category for boys aged 11-15. One who was a direct witness of those battles is Armando Filini, manager of Maranello Kart, the first team for which Leclerc raced. “They were always fighting. It didn’t matter if they competed in a heat or a final, if it rained or if the track was dry. Once we were in Genk, Belgium, in the first free practice, and they went out on the track. Charles and Max met, began to push each other and almost hit each other, at the risk of being left out. Jos Verstappen and I were glued to the fence to watch them and he turned around and said: ‘These two will fight forever. They will fight even in F1 ′. A prophecy”, he recalled in dialogue with La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The two are part of a young guard that also integrates lando norris (McLaren), Stephen Ocon (alpine), George Russell (Mercedes), Lance Stroll (Aston-Martin), Alex Alban (Williams) and Mike Schumacher (Haas), among others. But the combativeness to the extreme in those times in the karts between Leclerc and Verstappen led to the word friendship being impossible, at least for Charles. “A Stephen Ocon I know him from the 2005 French karting championship. I had an incident with him, but then we became great friends. I met Max in 2010, but we are not friends after some episodes in the karts”, revealed in an article of Sports world. In the social networks of each one there are no photos together from the time of karting.

One of the best known episodes in the world of karting was the one they starred in 2012, in Nantes, France, at the Val D’Argenton circuit, where one of the decisive races of the WSK Euro Series European Championship took place, with the two fighting for the title. It was a difficult competition as it rained and Leclerc showed his cards and did not hesitate to touch Verstappen after an attempt to overcome. In a video posted on Youtube by specialized site TKart Magazine, the testimonies of both were collected, with very different countenances. Max is seen next to his father, with a face of few friends, like every time his son did not win. “It is unfair. You have not acted correctly. He was leading and at the end he hit me and left me off the track. It’s not fair, huh”, said an angry Verstappen. For his part, much calmer, Leclerc wanted to lower the decibels and with the face of “poor little angel”, he stated that it was just “a racing incident”. She wanted to downplay him, but both were excluded by two dangerous maneuvers to the detriment of the adversary.

The 2012 European KF2 championship in the end was left to Leclerc, although in 2013 Verstappen took the world title in the most important category, the KZ (video 1 of the note). The ecumenical karting title is the one he always wanted to win Ayrton senna and couldn’t. Leclerc had already been captured by Nicholas Toddson of Jean Todt, the former head of Ferrari at the time of Michael Schumacher and that he has just left the presidency of the International Automobile Federation (FIA). While Verstappen competed with the Bresciano CRG team, with the engines prepared by his father Jos.

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc greet each other after the last race in Saudi Arabia (REUTERS / Hamad I Mohammed)
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc greet each other after the last race in Saudi Arabia (REUTERS / Hamad I Mohammed) (HAMAD I MOHAMMED /)

While the Italian dino churcha karting guru who guided drivers like Lewis Hamilton Y Nico Rossbergwas an impartial observer of those fights: “Max was always a bit faster than Charles and also more aggressive. He never took his foot off the accelerator, rather he stepped on you, but he had to win at all costs. Leclerc was a winner, but with a different character. He would compare him to Rosberg, although perhaps he has more talent, while Verstappen reminds me of Hamilton, “he also told in dialogue with La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Verstappen’s karting world title catapulted him to Red Bull, in 2014 he reached Formula 3 and in 2015, at just 17 years old, he made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso (today Alpha Tauri). While Leclerc took a more gradual path and moved on to Formula Renault and won the GP3 title in 2016 and F2 in 2017, when he had already entered the orbit of Ferrari. He made his debut in the Máxima in 2018 with Alfa Romeo and in 2019 he moved to the Scuderia and was Vettel’s partner. “Charles is calm outside the car, but inside he has a very aggressive style. He is much more aggressive than Vettelmuch more, but he has youth and speed”, defined the former Ferrari engineer and current commentator for Movistar F1, Tony Cuquerella in testimonials he published Sports world.

In 2022 Ferrari has a very competitive car and it allowed Leclerc to win the first date in Bahrain and be a candidate for the title. But Red Bull, after its mechanical failures at the start, recovered in Saudi Arabia and Verstappen won. The heads-up is installed and for now both are shaping up to dispute the crown. In karting they wrote the first pages of their battles and now they are starring in the great duel of the present and future of F1.


Verstappen vs.  Leclerc
Leclerc and Verstappen almost as children in their beginnings (
Verstappen vs.  Leclerc
Charles Leclerc’s first career (@charles_leclerc)
Verstappen vs.  Leclerc
Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly on the highest step of the podium (@charles_leclerc)
Verstappen vs.  Leclerc
Max and Jos Verstappen, who prepared the engines for him in karting (@Max33Verstappen)
Verstappen vs.  Leclerc
Max and Jos Verstappen (@maxverstappen1)


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