Max Verstappen tipped to take 2026 F1 sabbatical as “unusual” driver market analysed

Max Verstappen could take a sabbatical in 2026, according to Karun Chandhok.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing on the grid. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 6, Miami Grand Prix, Miami, Florida,
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing on the grid. Formula 1 World…

Ex-F1 driver Karun Chandhok has tipped Max Verstappen to take a year off in 2026 to allow him to assess which team is the best bet in the sport’s new era.

F1 will introduce entirely new technical regulations for 2026, centred around the power unit.

Verstappen’s current team Red Bull will make their own power unit for the first time, while the new rules have attracted Honda and Audi to the sport.

The Dutchman’s future has been a hot topic, particularly given the off-track drama surrounding Red Bull.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Sky Sports F1 podcast, Chandhok gave his view on what Verstappen might decide to do.

“There’s some really unusual things happening. Then you’ve got Sainz and Verstappen. We would never have thought of Verstappen leaving the team until all of the stuff unfolded around Red Bull in Bahrain. It is a really strange market, a difficult one to read.

“Increasingly I think Max will stay at Red Bull for 2025. I think he will take 2026 off and have a year out. See what happens and then in 2027, he can go anywhere couldn’t he? He’s talked about his ambitions of doing le Mans and other forms. I think he will do something in 2026, have a year off, see who hits the ground running with the new regulations.

“Lewis would have done his two years at Ferrari, Max can go there in 2027, go to Mercedes in 2027, go back to  Red Bull in 2027. I think that could happen.”

Another driver’s future that is up in the air is Carlos Sainz.

Sainz has been linked with Red Bull, Mercedes and Audi in recent months.

The Spaniard is keen on remaining at a top team, but neither Red Bull or Mercedes have him as their number one option.

“His is a complicated one,” he said. “He wants a two-year deal at Mercedes. It seems like they’re offering a one-year deal with an option maybe for the second. If Verstappen comes knocking then he’s out.

“That’s a risky move because you’re basically going to a team where you’re effectively holding a seat for Verstappen or Antonelli. They’re having you as a stop-gap. In ‘25, based on current form, you think they’re not going to win the championship.

“Do you really go there? The Audi project is fascinating. There’s a lot of money being pumped into it, they’ve unlocked a whole lot of budget.”

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