Charles Leclerc admits ‘long list of conflicts’ that led to hating Verstappen

Title-chasing Charles Leclerc has admitted there is a 'long list of conflicts' with championship rival Max Verstappen as the pair go head-to-head for the Formula One title this season.

Ferrari's Leclerc currently leads the way after the opening five rounds of the season but, having initially held a 40-point lead over the defending champion, his advantage has been cut to 19 points following back-to-back wins for Verstappen in Imola and Miami.

So far in 2022, there has been no sign of a bitter rivalry for the title emerging, like what was witnessed last year between Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen but that could change over the course of the season.

If high-profile incidents do emerge, it could result in the reignition of a rivalry between Leclerc and Verstappen that has been present since the pair's days in the karting ranks – where Leclerc admits the pair hated each other, which has been shown in a viral clip following a collision between the pair.

"This video is viral; I've seen it so many times now on social media. But yeah, they were very good years, for sure. The list [of battles together] is long. In karting, we had a lot of conflicts, really a lot," the Ferrari ace said.

"We were racing together for like four or five years and every race we were fighting for wins and, obviously, loads of things happened in karting. We were also young and crazy, and we hated each other, at that moment."

Leclerc's rivalry with Verstappen has settled in Formula One, with the pair showing a lot of respect for one another and looking back on those years with a smile, as he added: "We have both realised our dream to be fighting in Formula 1, so the relationship has changed since then. I think we both look back on these years with a smile on our faces.

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"We basically did all our karting years together and we were both dreaming of one day arriving to Formula 1, and now it's the case and we're also fighting for the championship. It's really cool. I like to fight with Max, it's always on the limit and I really enjoy it for now.

"I hope it can stay like this for the rest of the season and, hopefully, we'll be able to improve the car throughout the season to stay with them for the fight in the championship."

Formula One heads to Barcelona next for the start of the first double-header race weekend of the season, with Monaco swiftly following.

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