Verstappen vs Leclerc: the next big sporting rivalry?

Date published: June 7 2020

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc wouldn't turn down Mercedes says George Russell.

The history of Formula 1 is littered with rivalries between drivers that have helped to ramp up the excitement levels in this high-octane sport.

The battles between the likes of James Hunt and Niki Lauda or Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost enthralled motorsports fans across the world for many years.

In more recent times, the well-publicised spat between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber highlighted that drivers in the modern era are perfectly capable of having a bitter fallout.

Fast forward to 2020 and many pundits believe that Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc will be the next F1 racers to lock horns. We take a closer look at the potential for fireworks between the pair.

A rivalry formed on the junior circuit

A quick look at the sports betting odds for the 2020 F1 Drivers’ World Championship highlight just how far Verstappen and Leclerc have progressed in motorsport.

Their rise up the ranks hasn’t happened overnight, with both drivers honing their skills in the hugely competitive junior karting circuit.

They first crossed swords at the 2011 KF3 World Cup, with Leclerc performing a risky overtaking move on Verstappen that forced his rival out of the race.

The pair both went on to enjoy plenty of success in karting, but the seeds had been sown for what many people believe will explode into the next big F1 rivalry.

Two very different personalities

Generally speaking, the best historic sporting rivalries have been those that featured individuals who had extremes of personality.

The dynamic between Verstappen and Leclerc fits nicely into that premise, with both drivers possessing very different characteristics.

Verstappen is perceived as being much more confident, with an impetuous edge that some experts say will land him in trouble one day.

Leclerc appears to take a more studious approach to life, although his mild-mannered nature undoubtedly masks his steely inner resolve.

Making their mark in F1

Max-Verstappen-Lewis-Hamilton-Charles-Leclerc-PA

Verstappen made the headlines for the wrong reasons during the early part of his F1 career, most notably after recklessly colliding with Romain Grosjean at the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix.

Grosjean and Felipe Massa described the Dutchman as ‘dangerous’, and further incidents with Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel the following year lead to further criticism.

By contrast, Leclerc has largely avoided controversy in F1, although fall-outs with Vettel at Ferrari highlight that he is willing to fight his corner when necessary.

Repeatedly racing at the front of the grid brings added pressures and Leclerc’s previous battles with Verstappen suggest that is where fireworks are likely to come in the future.

Austria clash a taste of things to come

A clash between the two drivers at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix highlighted the potential for their rivalry to spiral out of control over the next few years.

The pair had an epic battle for the lead which ended with them banging wheels as Verstappen attacked on the penultimate lap.

The Dutchman went on to clinch first place and was allowed to keep the victory after a long stewards’ inquiry, much to Leclerc’s disgust.

With more races and titles on the line in the future, it would be a major shock if the Verstappen and Leclerc head-to-head didn’t develop into a full-blown sporting rivalry.