The 2026 factor that could decide Max Verstappen’s F1 future

Thomas Maher
Red Bull mechanics apply the finishing touches to Max Verstappen's Red Bull car in São Paulo.

Max Verstappen in the Red Bull RB19 that won the 2023 titles.

Max Verstappen has said the change of engine regulations for 2026 could play a factor in deciding whether or not to continue his F1 career.

F1 is changing power unit regulations in 2026, with a vastly different engine en route that will alter the ratio of internal combustion engine relative to the hybrid ancillaries in favour of increased electrical power generation.

While sticking with a 1.6 litre turbocharged V6, the MGU-H will be dropped – but the MGU-K will see its power output almost tripled, from 120kW to 350kW. As a result, such a change in ratio will mean a vastly different driving experience for the drivers.

Max Verstappen: 2026 power unit regulations are not particularly exciting

The three-time F1 World Champion has previously said he’s not excited by the upcoming changes, with the Dutch driver set to experience Red Bull creating their own power units for the first time from their new facility in Milton Keynes.

While the Red Bull Powertrains project continues apace, Verstappen said last summer the data on the simulator of the expected driving experience of the 2026 power unit ruleset looks “pretty terrible” and that the rules are “not something I’m excited about at the moment”.

Speaking in a new interview with Germany’s Motorsport-Magazin, Verstappen re-iterated the same stance. While the data will have changed somewhat over the past six months as the power unit project is refined, Verstappen said not much has changed in his opinion of the new rules.

“I don’t know what figures would be different,” he said when asked if he thinks any differently now compared to six months ago.

“I don’t think we’re stupid. We’ll find out how good it will be. At the moment, it’s still not particularly exciting.”

With Verstappen having made it very clear that he’s in F1 for a good time, not a long time, the Dutch driver admitted a lack of enjoyment of the driving experience could lead him to re-evaluate his future beyond the end of his current contract in 2028.

When asked whether the new power units could be a factor in not renewing, Verstappen said: “Yes, possibly.” recommends

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Having come off the back of F1’s most dominant season ever as he won 19 of 22 races en route to the title, would a return to a situation where he isn’t able to fight for wins be of interest to him as a new challenge?

“I found it very frustrating back then when I couldn’t win,” he said.

“Because you have the feeling that you can do it – but you can’t show it. That’s why I’m very happy in the position I’m in now. This is what I dreamed of. I hoped it would turn out like this. Now that the situation has arrived, I’m obviously trying to make the most of it.”

While the 2026 power unit regulations have been signed off on, with less than two years of development time remaining until the engines are needed on track, Verstappen said he has little hope of the regulations being tweaked to result in a more favourable driving experience.

“But nobody will agree. This sport is so political,” he said.

“If we push for one thing, then the others think we might have found something that could be an advantage. So they say no. That’s how Formula 1 works.

“If you find something, it’s always the case that it’s not supported. It’s always been like that, it’s part of the sport. Sometimes you have to live with it, because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.”

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