One of the more recent great events added to the motorsport calendar is the GP Ice Race event in Zell Am See, Austria. While Red Bull Racing is based in the UK, the energy drink brand is actually based in Austria, so it’s a bit of a homecoming for the RBR team. This year the 2021 Formula One World Champion (with an asterisk) took to the ice in a 2012 Red Bull RB8 chassis, a car which helped propel Sebastian Vettel to the world championship that year, his third in a row, with Renault power.
Obviously the decade old car needed a little bit of preparation in order to run around the ice track. It was fitted with a set of studded rally wheels and tires machined to accept the car’s center locking wheel nut. Verstappen might have been a little bit challenged by the RB8 and how different it is from the car he’s used to driving. For one thing, it’s jarring to see an F1 car these days without the halo head protection structure, as it’s been around since 2018 already. For another, this car last raced with Verstappen was just 14 years old, in a time before turbochargers, V6s, and big hybrid power.
Joining Verstappen for these exhibition laps is Austrian motorcycle speedway racing legend Franky Zorn. As nervous as Max must have been in an F1 car on ice, I can’t imagine the stress of avoiding a motorcycle on the same surface. Thankfully this was all done at relatively low speed.
Interestingly, this is officially Max’s first outing as a racing driver with his 2022 racing number, the famed number 1, reserved for the choice of a world champion driver. No F1 driver has raced under the number 1 since Sebastian Vettel ran it in 2014, as Lewis Hamilton has chosen to keep his traditional 44 across his most recent six championships, and Nico Rosberg retired immediately following his 2016 championship.