FIA Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen enjoyed his first track action of 2022 in an alpine day out with Austrian ice speedway star Franky Zorn. Although he’d never driven an F1 car on ice before, the Red Bull Racing driver sped through a circuit built out of ice on specially designed Pirelli spiked tyres, with his helmet and race car carrying the number “1” for the very first time.
Zell am See (AUSTRIA) – It was a spectacular prelude to Verstappen’s 2022 season as he took to the track with former European Ice Racing Champion Zorn, 51, in the driving exhibition hosted by the GP Ice Race circuit at Zell am See Airport. Under Austria’s winter sunshine, the Dutch hero savoured being back in a race car for his first laps since winning the F1 Drivers’ Championship at Abu Dhabi in December, while Zorn popped wheelies and slung his motorcycle to extreme angles around the curves.
Playing on his home country’s prowess in speed skating, Verstappen said, “I’m not that good at ice skating compared to some other people in Holland, but I did my best!”
He went on to describe, “This was my first time on the ice with a Formula One car and I’ve been really looking forward to it. It was very interesting and it’s quite slippery, so you have to be careful. Everything is very cold, including the brakes, and racing cars are obviously not designed to drive on the ice which makes it even more difficult, but it was a lot of fun.”
At just 24 years of age, Verstappen took the Formula 1 world by storm in 2021 as he claimed 10 wins and a further eight podiums from 22 races. In doing so, he became Red Bull Racing’s first champion driver since Sebastien Vettel captured his fourth successive title in 2013. Verstappen had driven car #33 since 2015, so seeing #1 on his livery for the first time was a special moment.
Just like Vettel did during his championship success, Verstappen has elected to run #1, the first time it will be used on the F1 grid since 2014. When asked about the change in numbers, a smiling Verstappen was quick to express his hope that his new number would stick around for the foreseeable future, saying, “How many times do you get the opportunity to swap numbers? And number 1 is the best number out there, so for me it was very straightforward to pick it. Hopefully number 33 doesn’t come back next year.”
As the shadows lengthened at the circuit sandwiched between Kitzsteinhorn Glacier and Grossglockner Mountain, the action moved into the evening with the pair chasing each other through the winding segments of the short ice track.
After his icy “warm-up” laps, Verstappen will soon face an unprecedented 23-race marathon in his first season as reigning Formula One World Champion. It all begins with pre-season testing in Barcelona, Spain on 23-25 February, where Verstappen will push the all-new RB18 to its limits.
“It looks a bit different, but at the end of the day it’s still a Formula One car. At testing we can do a lot of laps and get a lot of information about the car, which is important. I’m looking forward to it.”