Shock Max Verstappen F1 sabbatical prediction made by George Russell

Michelle Foster
George Russell and Max Verstappen in a press conference

George Russell and Max Verstappen.

George Russell isn’t opposed to Max Verstappen joining him at Mercedes but says he also wouldn’t be “at all surprised” if the Dutchman took a year off in 2026 to evaluate the teams and their new power units.

Although Verstappen has a long-term contract with Red Bull, one that runs to the end of the 2028 season, it continues to be suggested he may not stick around for the full duration.

Could Max Verstappen take a sabbatical in 2026?

Linked to Mercedes, partly through Toto Wolff’s public courting of the triple World Champion, Verstappen is reportedly weighing up his options, not for 2025 but 2026.

Two years from now, Formula 1 will not only put revised cars on the grid but a new engine formula as the sport swaps to fully sustainable fuels and more electrical power.

The last time Formula 1 introduced new engines was back in 2014, that resulting in the rise of Mercedes who out-performed Red Bull’s then-Renault engine to end the Milton Keynes team’s four-year reign as World Champions.

But as only time will tell if history repeats itself, Russell reckons rather than move to Mercedes in 2026, Verstappen could take a year out of the sport and see how that “lottery” plays out.

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“I wouldn’t shy away from jumping alongside Max,’ Russell told the Daily Mail. “Nor would I shy away from him jumping in with us.

“I had the biggest challenge of joining Mercedes against the greatest driver of all time statistically, in qualifying and in the race, and I performed against him, and that’s all I can do.

“Max can take a year off for 2026 and see which the best team is. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he did that. Remember, 2026 is a lottery. So, you truly don’t know what will transpire.”

As for his thoughts on his own future, Russell has made it clear he wants to be a World Champion and he’d like it to be with Mercedes.

“I am a loyal guy and Mercedes have given me the opportunity, but I want to be a World Champion. That’s not us at the moment,” he said. “But a year ago McLaren were the slowest team and now they are the quickest.”

Verstappen, meanwhile, was recently asked about his future by the Guardian newspaper and replied: “It would be amazing to finish my career here at Red Bull, all the years staying basically at one team would be incredible.”

He added: ‘I am quite a loyal person and it is something that means a lot to me. That is what I request from the team and so far that has always been great and that is what I want to keep for a long time.”

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