Formula One is currently in its off season, and what better way to spend winter vacation time than with a ski trip to the Austrian Alps? The folks at Red Bull apparently thought so, but instead of skis, they brought one of their F1 cars.
If you’ve ever wondered whether an F1 car can drive on snow, the answer is “yes,” and with surprisingly few modifications, to boot. While it did need to be airlifted to the starting line by helicopter, the car made it over the slopes with snow chains, raised ground clearance, and little else, according to the website of Max Verstappen, who was in the driver’s seat.
Verstappen typically drives for Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s secondary team. Toro Rosso acts as a training ground for promising young talent like Verstappen, who is only 18 years old. He was just 17 when he made is F1 debut last year, making him the youngest driver in the history of the sport. Who says teenagers can’t drive?
Compared to its driver, the car is a grizzled veteran. It’s an RB7 from the 2011 season, previously driven by Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber for the main Red Bull Racing team. It uses a 2.4-liter V8 with occasional boost from a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) hybrid unit. That makes the RB7 a pretty impressive performer on a dry track, but F1 cars generally don’t come equipped with snow tires, and all of those fancy spoilers and other aerodynamic aids were useless in these conditions.
Given how fragile F1 cars are, it’s pretty remarkable to see one zooming about in freezing winter conditions. One wonders what the technicians who spent hours honing this car with computer simulations and wind-tunnel and durability testing thought of it getting a nice coating of powder.
The RB7 won Vettel one of his four World Driver’s Championships, and garnered a Constructor’s Championship for Red Bull as well. That was back when Red Bull was on top of the F1 world; it has performed fairly badly in the past couple of seasons, leading to a spat with engine supplier Renault. Red Bull believes Renault’s version of the 1.4-liter turbocharged V6 hybrid powertrains now required for F1 is inferior.