Red Bull chief Christian Horner believes there is a 'genuine respect' between his own Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc who lead the drivers standings ahead of the fifth race of the season in Miami this weekend.
Reigning world champion Verstappen and in-form Leclerc have a long-standing rivalry dating back to their karting days, when the pair were frequently going wheel-to-wheel on track, with fractious battles a regular occurrence.
Since their graduation to Formula 1, Verstappen has claimed a world title while the latest rule changes and car developments for this season appear to have worked in Ferrari's favour, with Leclerc showing early signs of eyeing this accolade for himself.
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The duo have two wins each from four races so far. Leclerc leads the drivers championship with 86 points, while Verstappen lies second with 59, 27 points behind the top spot going into the race in Miami on Sunday.
Horner, when questioned on the rivalry that has evolved between the drivers, believes their experiences of racing against one another on the karting circuits has created a respect between the young stars.
"I think they've grown up racing each other in karting and so on, and they know each other very well. They come from the same generation, and there is a genuine respect between the two of them."
After the latest race in Imola, where Verstappen took the chequered flag ahead of Leclerc, the man from Monaco claimed there has been little to separate the two men throughout their careers to date.
"It's going to be very close, it's always been very close, especially in the junior categories. In karting I remember 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, but it was good times."
Leclerc touched on the driving styles he and Verstappen have developed and suggested that growing up has altered the nature of the relationship between the drivers, as their dreams have since turned to reality.
"I think we just have very, two very different styles of driving. At this time there were episodes which make us hate each other, I'm pretty sure, in some occasions but then you grow up. Obviously, we've both achieved one of our dreams, which was to arrive in Formula 1 and 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. It has changed for sure.
There is no doubt there will be more twists, turns and drama to come from these two shining stars of Formula 1. If the opening four races are anything to go by, the battle will continue to intensify between two ambitious drivers, whose limits will know no bounds in ones pursuit to out-do the other.
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