The leading drivers that will take F1 into the future are already here, playing out their careers, with two in particular leading the way, but what sparked Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc’s rivalry?
Try as he might, there is one rival that Lewis Hamilton will never be able to defeat.
Now 37, the Briton is in the final chapters of the greatest grand prix career of them all. The first man to win 100 races, take 100 poles, and but for a bit of misfortune along the way, probably should already have 10 world titles on his CV.
Nevertheless, as Hamilton writes those final chapters, some others are just beginning to pen their stories.
He is the face of the generation of grand prix driver of the mid-2000s and 2010s. He is the yardstick.
However, as father time comes for Hamilton, attention will switch to the next standard-bearers for their generation.
One is already a world champion, just, and the other is perhaps more naturally-gifted and finally has the chance to challenge for the world championship.
In the blue corner, we have the reigning world champion – Max Verstappen.
Groomed from a young age to be Red Bull’s man to dethrone Hamilton, Verstappen is the youngest person to ever race in F1 – at 17 years, 166 days old in 2015. That is one record which will never be broken.
In the red corner, there is the Monegasque charged with leading a faltering Cavalino Rampante back to promised land of world titles.
Charles Leclerc has already helped show Vettel the Maranello exit door – and is cemented as team leader on a long-term deal.
Hamilton is 37. Verstappen 24 and Leclerc also 24. In fact, there are just 16 days between them – Verstappen the elder.
They might be primed ready to take over at the top of F1, but everyone has to start somewhere: somewhere rivalries are formed.
MAX VERSTAPPEN CHARLES LECLERC F1 RIVALRY
Like every F1 driver, both Verstappen and Leclerc began their careers in karting.
One race in 2012, the two were taking part in a WSK Euro Series event when an incident took place on the track.
Post-race, Verstappen said: “He’s just unfair. I’m leading and he wants to pass, he push me, I push him back and then he pushes me off the track.”
Leclerc responded very simply and dryly for his observation: “Nothing. Just an incident.”
After their karting dust-up, it would take until 2018 for the two to share a grand prix track after Verstappen’s rapid promotion as Leclerc took a more conventional route.
THE F1 BATTLES THAT WHET THE APPETITE
After a standout season with Sauber in 2018, Leclerc was promoted to the main Ferrari team for ’19 – pitching him up against Verstappen at the front of the field.
Their first battle came in Austria.
Leading late on, Leclerc was on older tyres as Verstappen hunted him down.
Some failed attempts later, Verstappen got the move done on Lap 68 of 71, not without controversy.
At Turn 3, Verstappen stuck the Red Bull up the inside and grabbed the apex – nudging Leclerc out wide and off track to avoid a collision.
Leclerc felt aggrieved by the aggressiveness of the move with a stewards’ enquiry following.
Verstappen was cleared, but next time at Silverstone, the rivalry with Leclerc had another can of gas on the fire.
Leclerc declared that if the type of racing Verstappen had deployed in Austria was the bar, he’d rise to meet it – which he did.
The two put on some excellent side-by-side racing – including through the Club complex at the end of the lap.
They even entered and exited the pit-lane together, although a mistake from Verstappen allowed Leclerc through shortly after.