Published On: Wed, May 15th, 2024
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Max Verstappen ‘will walk away’ from Red Bull and F1 in boost for Lewis Hamilton | F1 | Sport

Karun Chandhok believes Max Verstappen will walk away from Formula One in 2026 before joining Ferrari or Mercedes the following season. The Dutchman remains tied down to Red Bull until the end of 2028 but has been linked with a move elsewhere in recent months.

Verstappen has been openly courted by Mercedes, with Toto Wolff making no secret of his desire to bring the 26-year-old to Brackley. The news of Adrian Newey’s impending departure from Red Bull has also fuelled rumours that Verstappen could follow suit before his contract is due to expire.

Speaking on the Sky Sports F1 podcast, Chandhok suggested that Verstappen could decide to take a break from the sport in 2026 in a potential boost to Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of winning a record-breaking eighth title.

He said: “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? He will go off, and he’s talked about having ambitions of doing Le Mans and other forms of racing, so I think he’ll do something in 2026, have a year off from F1, see who hits the ground running with the new regs.

“Lewis [Hamilton] would have done his two years at Ferrari, 2025, 2026, he could go to Ferrari in 2027, he could go to Mercedes in 2027, he could go back to Red Bull in 2027. I think that could happen.”

Red Bull would understandably like to keep Verstappen on their books, given that he is the best driver on the grid and has been so important to their recent success. However, team principal Christian Horner has already insisted that he will not stand in Verstappen’s way if his star driver wants to seek a new challenge.

Speaking at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, Horner said: “It’s like anything in life, you can’t force somebody to be somewhere just because of a piece of paper. If somebody doesn’t want to be at this team, then we’re not going to force somebody, against their will, to be here.

“That applies whether it’s a machine operator or a designer or somebody in one of the support functions, that runs through the business. Being involved in a team like this involves commitment and passion and Max has that, we’ve seen that.

“He’s been here since he was 18 years of age and I have no doubt of his commitment and passion going forward. But you know, that’s pretty much the way it is. No individual is bigger than the team.”

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