F1 drivers reflect on pending choice of joining any particular team with the pending changes on power unit side in 2026.
While the 2024 season could see a big silly season scenario since most of the current contract ends at the end of next year, but the real talk is certainly about the 2026 power unit changes. Considering how the regulation shapes up, the F1 driver market becomes interesting to say the least.
Only Max Verstappen and Oscar Piastri have a valid contract even for the 2026 season which means they are mostly out of equation for now. A handful of them have for until 2025 and most see their contract end in 2024 which will have them decide their future accordingly, keeping one eye on the 2026 changes.
Since the V6 Hybrid era has begun, the power unit game has played a huge role which started off with Mercedes and now Honda is continuing on with Red Bull. The 2026 F1 season will see Audi and Ford join in to make things interesting, with the Japanese manufacturer staying on but with Aston Martin.
Here’s what the F1 drivers and some team bosses make of it –
Sergio Perez: “Yeah, we’re obviously keeping an eye to see but it’s all so hard to predict what’s going to happen. I think we’re all trying to get the best possible next contract we possibly can, where we think we’re going to be most competitive at. But I think in my case, I’ve got another year of contract so I have no rush in that regard.”
Lewis Hamilton: “I just signed my contract. Don’t really know much about it to be honest. But of course in the not too distant future, I’ll be looking at my contract to 2030. Yeah.”
Esteban Ocon: “Yeah. It’s quite vague at the moment. Still, I don’t even know if the rules are completely fixed. I heard some drivers tested these new cars on the simulator like Red Bull. Yeah, we’ve tested it with our test drivers as well in the simulator and had the first look but as Checo said, you can’t really know the future, expect what it will be. But I think things will still change. I think for long tracks on the energy management, it looks quite tricky at the moment. So yeah, we don’t end up in situations where one car has 30 more kph than the others. There’s still a lot of time to figure out everything and see how it works. So yeah, we’ll see later.”
Charles Leclerc: “Yeah, I think as drivers it’s very difficult to know exactly where every team is at. Obviously, focusing on myself and with Ferrari, I didn’t have the chance yet to drive it on the simulator and as soon as it will be the case, then I’ll be able to tell probably a bit more. But yeah, for now very difficult to have a clear picture of who is ahead in terms of development or whatsoever.”
Valtteri Bottas: “I heard Audi is going to be pretty strong in ’26. That’s the rumour! But yeah, of course, like everyone, there’s so many question marks. I haven’t done any simulator testing either with the latest numbers so it’s still a bit far away but in the end, it will come quick and at least for Sauber, there’s a clear plan what’s happening and yeah, there’s been lots of work done already for sure.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “I think there’s still so much gap between now and then. I mean, sounds like quite a big change. And for sure, I think beginning of next year, you start to wonder about that. The Musical Chairs I think will move in and work quite a bit next year and I think naturally things will fall in place for people so yeah, depends what happens, how you perform and how strong your value is.”
Alexander Albon: “Yeah, I think just as Nico said. Of course we are paying attention to it, I think it’s more that it’s the teams that are paying attention to it more than drivers. We’ve just got to focus on our jobs. I think it’s as Nico said we will have our own stock and then it’s our performances that raise or lower it. And then, that’s it really. I think more than ever this… I don’t know, I haven’t been in the sport long enough but it does seem like there’s been a big push around 2026 in general from the whole paddock about keeping… there is a big move around then and that’s when we’re going to get the big Musical Chairs like Nico said.”
Yuki Tsunoda: “I’m quite scared now, talking about drivers line-ups! We’ll see. Obviously for me now it’s Red Bull family, so it would be nice if I’m part of Red Bull. And yeah also about Honda as well, so see how it looks like. But yeah, I think same copy/paste as them. My loyalty is for both (Honda and Red Bull)! Both definitely. I mean, Honda has supported me from 16 years old. Actually started from this track. So without them, obviously I’m not here – but same time, without Red Bull, I’m not here as well. So, it’s hard to say but they are different. I think they combine very well as a junior category, when I was a junior. They helped me in both ways and it’s balanced actually really well. So definitely both.”
Mike Krack: “I think these days just opening a wallet of money is not any more an argument or not a major… it is an argument definitely but the drivers these days, and especially their management, they’re asking many more questions than this. I think the power unit is playing a substantial role but I think also the track record and also I think the current status is always playing a role and is factored in. So I think the whole convincing bit is much more difficult because there was only a few top drivers or that the drivers that everybody wants to have and you have to have a proper set of presentations and arguments ready to convince them.”
Bruno Famin: “On our side, I think we are very happy with our drivers and this is not our first concern. Our first concern is to extract the best possible from the team… the best possible performance and to develop the best possible power unit. I’m talking about the power unit for 2026. The goal is to develop the best possible power unit. One thing after the other. We are happy with the drivers we have now and let’s build a good package.”
Christian Horner: “Yeah, there’s no crystal ball for 2026. Who knows who’s going to be competitive? There’s going to be completely new chassis regulations, complete new aerodynamic philosophy so the chassis is going to play a key role, the engine is going to play a key role with the split between electrification and combustion and fuel is going to play a key role in that as well. And so for us, starting from scratch, it’s our biggest risk and it’s our biggest opportunity so it’s going to be an interesting journey and I’m sure all the engine manufacturers are working incredibly hard. We’ve got new manufacturers coming in and Audi as well. But it is a significantly different challenge to the current set of PU regulations.”
Here’s Sebastian Vettel bringing F1 drivers for his project