Canadian Grand Prix | Leclerc vs Verstappen: The Battle That Is No Longer

Lewis Hamilton was expected to play Max Verstappen this season. Then Verstappen against Charles Leclerc. Here we are at the center of a sibling duel at Red Bull between Verstappen and Sergio Pérez.

Posted at 6:00 AM

Catherine Harvey Benard

Catherine Harvey Benard

Last weekend Charles Leclerc was forced to retire when smoke rose from his engine at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. It was his second retirement in three races, a blow in his title hunt.

But Leclerc and Ferrari will want to return quickly in Montreal in front of a crowd conquered since Gilles Villeneuve. Perhaps to deliver a message: The future of Formula 1 does indeed pass through Leclerc and Verstappen. The shock will wait, but it will come in the end.

On the one hand, the world champion, Verstappen. The 24-year-old Dutchman has developed at lightning speed since entering the ring at the age of 17. He already has 66 podiums in 149 Grand Prix. He grew up in Formula 1 with his father Jos, and moved from development team Toro Rosso to Red Bull in 2016.

On the other hand, the 24-year-old Monaco had only climbed 13 podiums in 81 races at the start of the season, but was expected to reach the top one day or another. A driver finally enjoys a high-performance car after two tough years. A charismatic athlete can finally show how talented he is.

Pictures of Natalia Kolesnikova, Agence France-Presse archive

Charles Leclerc

The new generation. Verstappen 150 points, Leclerc 116 points.

The picture can change quickly in Formula 1. It’s also the Ferrari driver who was in the lead until two weeks ago.

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Leclerc started the season strong by winning his first Grand Prix in Bahrain. Chasing him all the way, Verstappen had to retire three laps from the finish due to various problems with his car.

Seven days later, it was he who scored his first victory of the season after playing cat-and-mouse with Leclerc in the final laps at the Jeddah Speedway, Saudi Arabia. This is how Red Bull launched its season.

The two opponents appeared in Melbourne, Australia, and each claimed an all-time winning streak. And Leclerc, the dominant, had the last word. He also became the first Ferrari driver since Fernando Alonso in 2010 to achieve Grand Slam championships (first in qualifying, first in the race from start to finish and fastest lap) in a motorsport. Verstappen, once again a victim of mechanical failure, had to retire at age 39e A bosom when he was in second place even then.

Verstappen’s victories

The next three races were Verstappen’s story. The Dutchman completely dominated the Emilia-Romagna race, with Leclerc, who made a mistake, relegating to sixth place. Verstappen then rode a clear run in the scorching Miami heat to claim the first Florida Grand Prix in F1 history. in front of Leclerc.

Photo by Brendan Smilowski, AFP archive

Max Verstappen

This same Leclerc, affected by a mechanical problem, pulled out at 27e Tour in Spain. His opponent seized the opportunity to claim his third win in a row and take first place in the Drivers’ Championship.

The business then moved to Monaco, Leclerc’s home. For the first time this season, neither Monaco nor the Dutchman were the first to cross the finish line. Instead, it was another Red Bull driver, Sergio Perez, who took his third win of his career and called him into the title race.

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Ferrari committed a fatal error in the 22nd minutee Turn around to claim Leclerc, and then first, enter the pits when Carlos Sainz Jr. already exists. Monaco, angry, had to settle for fourth, just behind Verstappen.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a knockout: Leclerc’s retirement of Ferrari, along with Perez’s second place, has upended the hierarchy. Here we are at the heart of Red Bull’s internal rivalry.

Perez in the race

If Perez has developed under Verstappen since his arrival at Red Bull, he remains an experienced driver. With one win and five podiums this season, Chico is raising his hand.

Pictures of Natalia Kolesnikova, Agence France-Presse archive

Sergio Perez

“He’s racing just like Max,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports. The difference between the two is nothing. He and Max have been much closer this year. »

Perez signed a two-year contract extension in May. Since joining Red Bull last season, the 32-year-old has been an excellent teammate to his young teammate. One only needs to remember the last race of the 2021 season, when Lewis Hamilton’s performance slowed to allow Verstappen to close a gap against Mercedes.

“He’s a great teammate,” Verstappen said after winning the first title of his career.

As evidence, on May 22, in Spain, Perez was leading the race when he was ordered to allow Verstappen to get ahead of him at 49e circular. obey. But will it always be so restorative?

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