Ex-Formula 1 racer Johnny Herbert believes the only danger to Max Verstappen at the pinnacle of Formula 1 is the huge 2026 regulatory reset.
Verstappen schooled the field in F1 2023 as he won a remarkable 19 of the 22 grands prix held. That overall tally beat his previous record from last season, while a streak of 10 wins in a row as part of that collection also set a new standard.
Both he and Red Bull retained the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles with more than double the points of their nearest rivals, Sergio Perez and Mercedes respectively.
Could new F1 2026 rules floor Max Verstappen?
With the regulations looking stable for the coming two seasons, it has led to fears that Verstappen could surge to five-time World Champion status in similarly dominant fashion, Red Bull having switched to working on their next masterpiece, the RB20, midway through F1 2023.
Come 2026 though, the Formula 1 landscape could change as new challengers and power units are introduced, with Red Bull becoming a power unit manufacturer for the first time as of that season, in partnership with Ford.
The pressure is on then for Red Bull to take over from Honda in producing a winning Formula 1 power unit, which Herbert sees as the closest potential factor which could dislodge Verstappen from the F1 summit.
“The only thing that might stop his domination is the rule changes coming in in 2026,” Herbert told Lucky Block.
That being said, Herbert does believe that Verstappen will face more of a challenge in the coming years in the hunt for further title glory.
McLaren were arguably the surprise package of F1 2023 as they surged forward with their B-Spec MCL60, their upgrade programme continuing to deliver as they became the clear closest challenger to Red Bull at times.
And that gives Herbert reason to believe that the pack is starting to converge.
“Red Bull are starting to come under pressure from other teams,” said Herbert. “Everybody is getting closer. Let’s hope by the start of next season we will have a battle royal.
“The positive thing for race fans is that McLaren have been able to do what they’ve done. We will have a much closer pack.
“Max is not going to have the same domination next year. He is going to have to work at it.”
Verstappen is under contract at Red Bull until the end of 2028, so if he were to win the World Championship every season until the end of that deal, then he would be a record-breaking eight-time World Champion.
Such a streak Herbert pointed out is far from a given, though he believes Verstappen does have the talent to clear the benchmark of seven, jointly held by Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher.
“I never thought anyone would ever get near Michael,” Herbert added. “And Lewis did.
“It is not a given that Max is going to have everything his own way in the next couple of years.
“As a natural talent he has the ability to eclipse Lewis and Michael’s achievements. He has that very rare special something that the very best have.”
Verstappen will continue to be partnered by Sergio Perez at Red Bull in F1 2024, as part of an unchanged grid.