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‘He’s calmed down a bit!’ – Leclerc reflects on how ‘exceptional’ Verstappen has evolved since their karting days

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Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen (L) speaks with Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles

Charles Leclerc could watch his former karting rival Max Verstappen claim his third drivers’ championship in Qatar this weekend. But ahead of the on-track action, the Monegasque driver shared his memories of their time together in karting – and reflected on how Verstappen has changed since then.

Leclerc and Verstappen were fierce rivals back in their karting days – a clip of the pair’s heated words after a crash having gone viral once they had both ended up in Formula 1 together.

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Last year, meanwhile, saw Leclerc challenge Verstappen for the title, while this season, he's faced a tougher time on track as Verstappen has romped into what looks to be an unassailable lead in the drivers’ championship – the Dutchman able to claim the title as early as Saturday’s Sprint.

Reflecting on Thursday evening in Qatar on how Verstappen had evolved since their days together in karting, Leclerc joked: “I think he calmed down quite a bit!

Charles Leclerc: 'My target is to beat everyone until the end of the season'

“I remember our karting days and we were going for it. Obviously then with experience, you calm down and now he’s an adult. When we were together [in karting], we were kids. But it’s good memories.

“He’s done another exceptional season. He definitely deserves everything that’s happening to him at the moment, and I guess it’s only a matter of time before he wins his third title.”

Leclerc’s own battles are far from over, however, with Lando Norris and George Russell (tied on 115 points) chasing down his P6 in the drivers’ championship (Leclerc on 135 points) – with Ferrari just 20 points adrift of Mercedes’ P2 in the constructors’.

logo 2023Constructors' standings ahead of Qatar

PositionTeam NamePoints
1Red Bull RacingRed Bull Racing623
2MercedesMercedes305
3FerrariFerrari285
4Aston MartinAston Martin221
5McLarenMcLaren172

And Leclerc was clear about which fight meant more to him at the moment, saying: “I’m a bit more looking forward to the constructors’ championship – that should be a bit tighter.

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“Obviously Red Bull has now won the title already, but the second place is still all to fight for, which is a bit more interesting [than the drivers’ championship battle]. We’ll try our best to beat Mercedes, but also McLaren that are coming back strong.”

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