Back in 2015, Max Verstappen became the youngest ever driver to start a Formula 1 race, at 17 years old. Now, he’s 21 and seen by many as a future champion thanks not only to his amazing talent, but also the team he has around him.
Until last year, it seemed as though he would be alone in trying to dethrone the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, however, a rookie Monegasque driver put the world on notice while racing for Sauber that his time would soon come too.
His name is Charles Leclerc and he’s now racing for Ferrari.
It doesn’t take much effort to figure out that Verstappen and Leclerc are the two biggest young talents in Formula 1 today. All you have to do is look at the numbers and marvel at their career ascension.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen
Before his promotion to Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen kicked off his 2016 F1 campaign with a bunch of solid results, including a sixth place finish in Bahrain to score Toro Rosso’s first ever points at the Sakhir circuit. It was that very same year that he would become Formula 1’s youngest race winner ever (Spanish GP), following his shocking in-season promotion to Red Bull.
He then went on to secure six top-5 finishes in his first eight races for Red Bull, including four podiums. Last year, he finished fourth in the Driver Standings with 249 points, just 2 points shy of 3rd place Kimi Raikkonen and well clear of his teammate at the time, Daniel Ricciardo. He also managed to out-score Mercedes‘ Valteri Bottas, who had the faster car.
For a while, it looked as though nobody would stand in his way as he chased after the greatness of multiple world champions like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, but that’s clearly no longer the case.
An even higher ascension rate?
Even though he has less Formula 1 experience than Verstappen, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is just as young and as hungry as the Dutchman. In fact, in his rookie season (2018), Leclerc dragged himself all the way up to 13th in the Driver Standings, securing 39 points in 21 races.
He made Q3 on several occasions throughout the year, and had multiple 7th-place finishes during the second half of the season, which may not sound like much if you’re used to winning, but given his age and his car at the time, it was a tremendous achievement.
Another argument in his favor is the good old “Eye Test”. He just looks great on the track, extremely fast and efficient. In the end, winning that many midfield battles against much more experienced drivers with quicker cars is what landed him a seat with Ferrari and thus a chance at an F1 title.
So, who will cross the champ-line first?
Even though both Leclerc and Verstappen have had tumultuous starts to their 2019 F1 campaigns, only 3 points separate them in the Drivers Standings with three races into the season. As of right now, it’s hard to imagine either of them rallying back and winning the 2019 title, but their time will undoubtedly come soon enough, especially since the grid might get shaken up by the 2021 rule changes.
Now, judging by everything you’ve seen and learned about them, which of these two young stars do you think will become an F1 champion first?