Verstappen can breathe sigh of relief as Audi decide ‘priority’ driver targets

Max Verstappen wins third consecutive Formula One world championship

Max Verstappen’s chances of partnering close friend Lando Norris on the F1 grid have been handed a boost, with Audi believed to be looking elsewhere for their 2026 driver line-up. Norris had previously been tipped to sniff out a possible opportunity with the German manufacturer, who will bring significant racing pedigree to the sport.

Audi are ramping up preparations for their entry into F1, which will coincide with new regulations being introduced in 2026. That makes it perfect timing for Norris who, as it stands, will reach expiry on his McLaren contract at the end of the previous season.

Although the 23-year-old is yet to win a Grand Prix, many believe he has the necessary talent to thrive at a top team such as Red Bull. However, former F1 team manager Peter Windsor believes that he would be wise to assess opportunities Audi may have to offer.

“I’d love to see Lando in an Audi in 2026,” he said during a YouTube livestream. “To me, if I was Lando Norris now and Audi or Andreas Seidl said to me: ‘Number one driver, 2026 onwards,’ could you say no to that?”

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Any notion Norris may have of eyeing up an Audi seat in 2026 may ultimately be meaningless, with the newcomers rumoured to be set on two other current F1 stars. According to, Nico Hulkenberg is the top priority.

That much is not particularly surprising, with Hulkenberg currently the only German driver on the grid. Audi’s intent to hire a competitor from their own nation has become an open secret in the paddock.

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And the Haas star would surely jump at the opportunity, given his current team’s long-standing F1 struggles. Alongside Hulkenberg, Audi have reportedly earmarked Alpine ace Esteban Ocon for their second seat.

Such a line-up would leave Norris free to complete a future move to Red Bull and form a hotly-anticipated partnership with Verstappen, who described the McLaren man as his ‘best friend’ in the sport.

“We talk about [teaming up in the future],” admitted the Dutchman back in August. “But he’s contracted to McLaren for a long time. We’ll see what happens in the future.”

Williams star Alex Albon fuelled the fire of a possible partnership earlier this month by claiming that Norris has had an ‘open invitation’ to team up with Verstappen at Red Bull for ‘some time’.

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