The doom and gloom surrounding the state of modern Formula 1 seemed so very far away through the first half of Sunday’s British Grand Prix, as a number of spectacular on-track battles showed the sport as its very best.

As Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas scrapped over the lead with a hard but clean fight, Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris were going wheel-to-wheel further back – and, best of all, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc had an almighty fight for third place.

Side-by-sides, switchbacks, even occasional contact – it was a battle two weeks in the making following their three-lap scrap for the lead in Austria. That fight was ultimately won by Verstappen with a move that left Leclerc feeling initially aggrieved but, after some time to digest what had happened, enlightened.

Right the way through the race weekend at Silverstone, Leclerc kept saying he felt he had a better understanding of where the limit was for on-track manoeuvres, and vowed that a more aggressive approach would follow - and boy, did it.

Every time Verstappen managed to get a run on Leclerc, the Ferrari driver would place his car perfectly, leaving it as late as possible to make his one permitted move. The pair came in to stop running nose-to-tail at the end of Lap 13, before going two-wide all the way to pit exit, where Verstappen edged clear – only to then run wide at the Loop and let Leclerc back through.

Verstappen continued to clamour behind Leclerc’s car, getting a run on the Hangar Straight five laps later before trying a dive down the inside. Leclerc again defended in hard but fair fashion – Verstappen just about had enough room – and cleverly stunted the Red Bull’s momentum, meaning he could swoop back ahead around the outside of Stowe.

A Safety Car called for Antonio Giovinazzi’s off defused the tension that had been building, but even once the race resumed Leclerc and Verstappen were still going at it. Now trying to get ahead after losing a place when pitting a second time, Leclerc attempted to force his way past at Club – but Verstappen hung his car out wide, kept his foot in, and managed to stay ahead.

It proved to be the final act in their battle as Verstappen found some breathing room and was then waved past Red Bull teammate Pierre Gasly, but it was the talk of the paddock after the race. Two of F1’s youngest stars had just put on a remarkable show of hard, fair racing.

“That was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in my Formula 1 career,” Leclerc said after the race. “I think Austria was quite an eye-opener for me, and I understand how far we can go and what was expected.

“I think every driver wants to race hard, and we did during most of the race. It was very, very fun, always borderline but I think within the rules.”

Verstappen raised a small complaint just once over team radio about Leclerc moving late, but said after the race that he too enjoyed the fight, and that he felt Leclerc was “a little bit sore” after Austria.

“He was defending really hard, but that’s fine - I’m all for that,” Verstappen said, adding: “I enjoyed that a lot.”

No whining. No calls for the stewards to get involved. No sitting tight and waiting for an easy DRS pass. The fight was everything that we want to see in F1: proper racing.

What is all the more exciting is that these early salvos between Leclerc and Verstappen have been simply a taste of things to come. Three laps in Austria and 25 laps at Silverstone were all well and good – but we could easily have another 15 years of these fights, such is the youth of both drivers.

F1’s precocious, fearless new generation has breathed some much-needed fresh air into the debate about hard racing in recent weeks. They’re helping to make the sport fun and exciting to watch, offering some box-office moments that have perhaps been lacking in more recent times.

Sure, the track layout at Silverstone and even pace between the teams added fuel to the fire, but it was down to the drivers to put on the show. Verstappen and Leclerc delivered where their teammates – most starkly of all, Sebastian Vettel in the sister Ferrari, when he entered battle with Verstappen late on – did not.

The kids are alright…



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