Max Verstappen believes he and championship rival Charles Leclerc have “matured a lot” since their intense rivalry in karting and suggested the pair can continue to have a clean fight in F1 this season.
After battling one another in karting, reigning F1 champion Verstappen and Ferrari rival Leclerc have risen up motorsport's ladder to reach F1 where they have gone wheel to wheel on several occasions already this season.
Asked how their rivalry has changed, Verstappen said: “We have matured a lot. We are in two top teams fighting for race wins and what happened in go-karting, actually, you can laugh about it now. But, yeah, good times.
“We basically grew up through go-karting from, I think, 12 years old and, of course, we are very similar in age so we already had a lot of go-karting battles but also we made our way through Formula 1.
“Not just the two of us, but a lot of drivers we know including George [Russell], Carlos [Sainz], we already saw each other at the go-karting tracks and now we are all here fighting with top teams. I hope it can continue for a long time.”
Leclerc – F1 rivalry is “different situation” to karting
Leclerc said that some incidents had caused the pair to “hate each other” during their formative years but he also believes that over time each has become more balanced and both are capable of having a good and fair fight.
“I think it’s a very different situation,” said Leclerc of the current rivalry. “We have matured a lot, we are much older, even though we are still 24 years old which is still quite young.
“At this time [in karting] there were episodes that made us hate each other, I am pretty sure, on some occasions but then you grow up. Obviously, we have both achieved one of our dreams, which was to arrive in Formula 1.
“At that time it was just a dream, everything looked impossible, so it’s great now to be fighting in Formula 1 and there’s a lot of respect for each other, so it has changed for sure.”