Horner: Verstappen-Leclerc rivalry filled with 'genuine respect'

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Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc are engaged in a fierce fight for the F1 title, but Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says the rivalry between the two front-runners is one that is filled with "genuine respect".

Leclerc and Verstappen have shared top spoils in the first four races of 2022, winning two races each. But the Ferrari charger still holds a comfortable 27-point lead over his Red Bull rival in the Drivers' standings.

While their battle has been intense and tight at the front of the field, Leclerc and Verstappen have kept it clean, even despite their history which goes back to their karting days when the two chargers banged wheels more times than they care to remember.

"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," Leclerc said at Imola recently.

"But it was good times. I think we just have very, two very different styles of driving. Sometimes one will win, sometimes the other might, but it's fun. I like it."

And Horner suggests that a remnant by-product from those frantic karting days is a sense of respect shares by both protagonists.

"I think they've grown up racing each other in karting and so on, and they know each other very well," said the Red Bull team boss.

"They come from the same generation, and there is a genuine respect between the two of them."

"But for sure they're going to be super competitive in two weeks' time [in Miami]. And I think it'll be like that for the whole season."

Sky F1 pundit Nico Rosberg says the on-track tussle between Leclerc and Verstappen is great new for F1 as it "mixes things up".

But the 2016 F1 world champion fears things will get "more feisty" over time between the two young guns.

"I think they're kicking off where we finished last year, except it's not Max against Lewis; it's now Verstappen against Leclerc, and the battle is equally as enjoyable," said Rosberg.

"It's not as fiery yet but, believe me, if they keep at it like that, there will come a point where they will be touching, colliding and things will get a bit more feisty.

"I'm looking forward to that."

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