Retirement? Verstappen shock after simulator ride

Where is Formula 1 heading in 2026? That’s the question on everyone’s mind as the sport looks to embrace more electric and climate-neutral fuels. However, the push towards stronger electric components is causing some unrest among drivers, including reigning world champion Max Verstappen, who recently shared his thoughts on the future of Formula 1.

Verstappen expressed his fondness for the 2020 and 2021 cars, which he found to be more agile and enjoyable to drive, despite their heavier weight. He even compared them to older Formula 1 cars with V8 engines, noting the smoothness and natural power delivery of the V8 engines. Such comments only add more fuel to the fire that the soon to be three time world champion will be announcing retirement sooner rather than later.


What Verstappen has said about retirement so far

Max Verstappen’s future in Formula One has been a topic of discussion as the Dutchman has hinted at the possibility of retiring from the sport. Despite his dominant performances, Verstappen has expressed his reservations about certain rule changes and the increasing number of sprint races.

The news sent shockwaves through the paddock as Verstappen voiced his concerns over the recent updates that have doubled the number of sprint races from three to six in a season. The Red Bull driver has been a vocal critic of the shortened Saturday races and suggested that further changes could push him away from the sport.

During a press conference in Melbourne, Verstappen stated, “I hope there won’t be too many changes, otherwise I won’t be around for too long… We are heading into seasons where we could have 24 or 25 races, and if you then start adding more, it is not worth it for me. I will not enjoy that.”



Early retirement possibilities

In October 2022, Verstappen also hinted at his limited longevity in Formula One, saying, “I don’t see myself driving until I’m 40 because I want to also do other stuff. I’m having a lot of fun with what I’m doing right now, and I’m still in F1 for a couple more years… I’m signed until ’28. After that, it also depends on how everything is going, but I will probably try to do a few different kinds of racing because it’s important to try different things.”

The uncertainty surrounding Verstappen’s future was evident ahead of last year’s season-finale in Abu Dhabi. When asked about his plans beyond his current contract with Red Bull, Verstappen chose not to commit to staying in the sport, leaving his future open-ended.

More recent comments about the direction of the newest F1 car rules coming in 2026 have certainly added yet more dissatisfaction to the rhetoric coming from the Dutchman.


READ MORE: FIA president shuns Hamilton


Current cars not appealing to Verstappen

Verstappen believes that the current cars, with their electric drive and turbochargers, lack the same level of smoothness and natural feel. Yet another bone of contention with the current and future state of the sport for the Dutchman.

One of the major concerns for Verstappen, as well as many other drivers, is the high weight of the cars. The current cars weigh over 900 kilograms at the start of the race, which Verstappen believes is excessive. While acknowledging the need for safety measures that contribute to the weight increase, Verstappen advocates for a reevaluation to find a balance between safety and weight reduction.

“The [current] cars are incredibly fast, of course,” he says. “But I really liked the 2020 and 2021 cars. They were a bit more agile and more fun, but they were also already very heavy,” says Verstappen.



Tyre size an issue

Verstappen also expressed his dissatisfaction with the introduction of 18-inch wheels in 2022, preferring the smaller tires as they provide a better driving experience and visibility of the corners.

“With these big tyres you don’t see the apex in the corners. I like the smaller tyres better. It’s much more fun.”


Olders cars were more ‘fun’

Verstappen has also driven older Formula 1 cars with V8 engines: “Every time I drive a V8 car again, I am surprised how smooth the engine is. The top speed is lower compared to what we have now. But that’s simply because of the dynamics of the engine and the torque.”

“The power is delivered so smoothly. Downshifting, upshifting, everything is so much more natural than what we have now.”

The linear power delivery of the V8 engines, which has been so beneficial to Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and others in clinching their titles, is currently offset by a greater torque boost in the lower rev range from the electric drive and turbocharger. Since 2022, the aerodynamic concept of the cars has also been fundamentally different for the first time in almost 40 years.


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Future cars in 2026 are not appealing

In an unexpected twist, Verstappen called for a different approach regarding drag and overtaking manoeuvres. Instead of relying heavily on the Drag Reduction System (DRS), which allows for artificial overtaking, Verstappen suggested that increasing air resistance would enable more natural slipstream overtakes.

“But with the new 26cc cars, it looks like they have much less drag. So overtaking will be even more difficult,”  says Verstappen.


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Shock after simulator session

However, Verstappen expressed disappointment after test-driving the 2026 concept car in a simulator. He highlighted issues with the stronger electric thrust and lower power of the combustion engine, which resulted in cars slowing down when the boost was switched off and requiring mid-straight downshifting.

Verstappen found this driving experience peculiar and raised concerns about the overall feeling it would create on the track.

“In my opinion, it’s just not right to have to drive a car like that,” Vertappen comments. “And when you’re braking, you’re literally staying on the gas. I think that will make for a very strange feeling.”

“It’s a bit like with the blown diffusers, you just stay fully on the gas. It just looks very strange to me. And also the active aerodynamics, which are self-regulating. It all seems strange to me. I think it’s all getting too complicated. We have to look at it especially from the engine side”.


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New rules ‘too complex’

Verstappen found certain aspects of the 2026 concept car, such as active aerodynamics and self-regulating features, to be overly complex. He believes the sport should focus on simplifying things, especially from an engine perspective.

As Formula 1 continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how these concerns and perspectives from drivers like Verstappen will shape the future direction of the sport.

It could well be the last nail in the coffin for Verstappen in Formula 1 based on all the reasons the Dutchman has given to leave Formula 1 for good.

READ MORE: Huge blow for Ricciardo




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