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Max Verstappen

Former F1 driver predicts unusual Verstappen career move

Ex-F1 driver and current pundit Karun Chandhok has provided a bold prediction that Max Verstappen will take the entire 2026 F1 season off as he ponders his next steps.

Verstappen Imola
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Ex-Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok believes Max Verstappen will step away from the championship at the end of the 2025 season for a sabbatical.

The ex-HRT and Lotus driver feels by taking a year out in 2026, the Dutchman will be well-placed to assess who has best adapted to the all-new regulations introduced that season.

With significant power unit and chassis changes to the rules, there is no guarantee Red Bull will remain the pre-eminent force in F1. This uncertainty has fuelled speculation that Verstappen may seek a way out of his contract with the team, which will currently expire at the end of 2028.

Therefore, Chandhok thinks the 26-year-old could opt for a year on the sidelines before ultimately deciding who to join, once the hierarchy of dominance is better understood.

"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 could go anywhere, couldn't he," the 40-year-old claimed on the Sky Sports F1 Podcast.

"He will go off - he's talked about his ambitions of doing Le Mans and other forms of racing, so I think he'll do something in 2026, have a year off in F1, see who hits the ground running with the new regs [regulations].

"Lewis [Hamilton] will have done his two-year contract at Ferrari - '25, '26 - he [Verstappen] could go to Ferrari in '27, he could go to Mercedes in '27, he could go back to Red Bull in '27. I think that could happen."

'Nothing's beyond the realms of possibility'

The Sky Sports presenter and commentator highlighted how unusual the current driver market is when preluding his bold Verstappen prediction.

He underlined some of the factors that have led to silly season being as dynamic and unpredictable as it has been - including the situation at Red Bull, which instigated much of the speculation around Verstappen's future.

"Nothing's beyond the realms of possibility. We've got a really strange driver market," he contended. 

"We've had a driver sign up to race until his mid-40s in Fernando Alonso, you have another driver sign up for one of the biggest teams in F1, where he'll start his contract at the age of 40.

"You've got a young driver in [Andrea] Kimi Antonelli, who's not done F3, not done a full season of F2 and is yet a player, potentially even later this year - they're talking about mid-season replacements. So there's some really unusual things happening in the driver market, right?

"We would never have thought of Verstappen leaving the team until all of the stuff unfolded around Red Bull around Bahrain or before Bahrain. So, it is a really strange market and a really difficult one to read."

Also interesting:

In the latest episode of the RacingNews365.com podcast, Ian Parkes, Samuel Coop and Nick Golding look back at this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen and Lando Norris went head-to-head for the victory around the famous Imola Circuit as McLaren continue to pile the pressure on Red Bull!

Rather watch than listen to the podcast? Click here.

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