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Verstappen’s Potential Sabbatical and the Unpredictable F1 Driver Market of 2026

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Karun Chandhok suggests that Max Verstappen might opt for a break from Formula 1 in 2026, amid an analysis of the distinctive driver market.

Former Formula 1 racer Karun Chandhok has suggested that Max Verstappen might opt for a sabbatical in 2026. This break would give him the opportunity to evaluate which team presents the most promising prospects in the upcoming phase of the sport.

In 2026, Formula 1 will implement a completely new set of technical rules focused on the power unit.

For the first time, Verstappen's team, Red Bull, is set to produce its own power unit, as new regulations draw in Honda and Audi to the competition.

The future of the Dutch driver has been widely discussed, especially with the controversies off the track involving Red Bull.

During the most recent edition of the Sky Sports F1 podcast, Chandhok shared his insights on Verstappen's potential next moves.

There are some quite extraordinary events occurring. Including Sainz and Verstappen. The idea of Verstappen exiting the team hadn't crossed anyone's mind until the situation with Red Bull in Bahrain came to light. It's an odd market, challenging to interpret.

More and more, it seems likely that Max will remain with Red Bull through 2025. It appears he might take a sabbatical in 2026, stepping away for a year to see how things unfold. Following that, in 2027, he would be free to join any team, wouldn’t he? He has expressed a desire to compete in Le Mans among other races. It seems he plans to take 2026 as a break year, to observe which team adapts best to the new rules.

"Lewis was poised to spend a couple of years with Ferrari, while Max has the potential to switch to Ferrari in 2027, then move to Mercedes the same year, and eventually return to Red Bull also within 2027. I believe such a scenario is possible."

The future of Carlos Sainz in driving remains uncertain.

Recently, there have been connections made between Sainz and top racing teams such as Red Bull, Mercedes, and Audi.

The Spanish driver is eager to stay with a leading team, yet neither Red Bull nor Mercedes consider him their primary choice.

"He has a complex situation," he mentioned. "He's aiming for a two-year contract with Mercedes. It appears they're proposing a one-year contract, potentially extendable for a second year. Should Verstappen show interest, then his chances diminish.

Opting for that decision is quite daring, as it essentially places you in a position on the team where you're temporarily filling a spot meant for Verstappen or Antonelli. They're using you as an interim solution. Looking ahead to 2025, given how things are shaping up, it's unlikely they'll secure the championship title.

"Do you actually visit that place? The Audi initiative is captivating. A significant amount of funds are being invested in it, with a substantial budget being made available."

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