During their karting days, Charles Leclerc confesses he and Max Verstappen “hated each other.”
After three races, the two appear to be the fastest two drivers on the grid, despite Verstappen’s two DNFs, which puts Leclerc 46 points ahead of him in the drivers’ standings. Mercedes’ George Russell, on the other hand, is now in second place in the individual standings, trailing by 34 points.
This season, Leclerc has won two races, with Verstappen earning his only points in a dramatic victory in Saudi Arabia. If his Red Bull had not let him down, the Dutchman would have been much closer to Leclerc.
As he pondered on their early duel, the Monegasque driver predicted a tight battle in 2022.
“It is going to be very close. It has always been very close,” he said. “In karting, it was either me or him and that’s why we hated each other at one point because very often it didn’t end in the best way possible.”
Last season, amid contentious final-lap drama in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen defeated Lewis Hamilton in the title race, with the pair’s relationship filled with incident and ill-feeling throughout the season.
“In which parts we are stronger or not, I don’t know, we just have two very different styles of driving. In some days one will win, in some the other will. But I like it,” Leclerc said.
Since Michael Schumacher in 2004, Leclerc will be the first Ferrari driver to lead the championship at Imola as the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix takes centre stage this weekend.
“I am very excited, after the first three races, everything has gone our way and we seem to have a very strong car this year,” he said.
“I know in the past we have had so much support here, so to be here in that position I am pretty sure it is going to be special.”
“But the most important this weekend is to not overdo things, which is easy whenever there is excitement and when things are going well.”
“So we need to stay focused on our job and not try to do too much and hopefully it will be a positive weekend.”