Max Verstappen sabbatical theory resurfaces with ‘open ambition’ away from F1

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in front of the Formula 1 logo at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

Ex-F1 driver turned pundit Karun Chandhok reiterated his belief that Max Verstappen could take a sabbatical from Formula 1, which may allow him to return “reinvigorated”.

Verstappen is under contract at Red Bull until the end of 2028, though that has not stopped speculation over his Formula 1 future, not only due to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff making his desire to lure Verstappen away public, but Verstappen himself has hinted at leaving the series in the coming years on several occasions.

Karun Chandhok sticking to Max Verstappen sabbatical theory

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

Chandhok recently said he believes Verstappen will sit out the F1 2026 campaign, the year when new chassis and power unit regulations will come into effect, before assessing the landscape and deciding the best team to look to return with.

Mercedes driver George Russell has since provided a very similar theory of his own about a Verstappen sabbatical.

And in a piece for The Intercooler, Chandhok stuck to his guns, citing Verstappen’s “open” ambition to race in categories outside of Formula 1, which he thinks adds weight to his Verstappen prediction.

“A couple of weeks ago I appeared to create a spot of social media chaos by suggesting that Max Verstappen could take a year away from F1,” Chandhok wrote.

“The controversial start to Red Bull’s season, very much an ongoing case between the complainant and Christian Horner, seems to have riled Max’s dad Jos Verstappen, de-stabilising the harmony between the Verstappen camp and Horner. This has led to plenty of speculation around Max’s future with the team.

“While I don’t know whether Max will leave Red Bull for another team, he’s been open about his ambition to try other forms of the sport and not being around F1 forever. It is racing and driving he loves and it doesn’t have to be in F1.

“Clearly Max is performing at an incredible level and is young enough to take a break and come back strong if he wanted to. He’s been at kart tracks and travelling the world relentlessly ever since he was four years old.

“He achieved his life’s ambition of becoming F1 World Champion back in 2021 at the tender age of just 24. By the end of this year he’ll probably be a quadruple World Champion, and I wonder if he’s looking for a new challenge to re-discover his mojo and come back reinvigorated.”

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Victories for McLaren’s Lando Norris in Miami and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in Monaco have meant that Verstappen’s status as a four-time World Champion by the end of the season is looking less of a guarantee, though the Dutchman is not giving thought to whether he now has a title battle on his hands.

Asked by media including PlanetF1.com at the Monaco Grand Prix whether the battle is now on, or if it is too early to say, Verstappen replied: “I don’t even think about that. It’s so long, so many things that can happen.

“One bad race won’t define the Championship.

“But I know that to win a title you need to be consistent and that’s what we have to try and be.”

Verstappen currently leads this season’s Drivers’ Championship by 31 points over Leclerc.

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