Red Bull Motorsports
Who are the hovercraft heroes of F1's new space race?
There's a series of UFO sightings in the Nevada desert as Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Pérez and Yuki Tsunoda race hovercrafts in an out-of-this-world (Un)serious Race Series clash.
It's a week of firsts in Las Vegas for the drivers of Oracle Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri. This weekend, F1 world champion Max Verstappen, Sergio Pérez, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda will take part in the first F1 race on the iconic Las Vegas strip, battling in front the city's iconic casinos and the massive new Sphere.
Before their maiden race in the heart of Vegas however, the four drivers travelled into the Nevada desert south of the city to compete in vehicles they'd never driven (and hardly seen) before – high-powered, out-of-this-world racing hovercrafts – in the latest episode of the (Un)serious Race Series.
The four drivers found themselves in a scene straight out of a sci-fi movie, complete with the cracked dirt of the Nevada wasteland, a pair of two-seater Renegade Hovercrafts decked out in team livery and even a crashed UFO lodged in the dry lake bed. Verstappen, Pérez, Ricciardo and Tsunoda dove straight into three space-inspired challenges and continued the lighthearted rivalry of the series.
While it was a friendly contest, the competitive nature of the drivers shone through, leading to strategy discussions between team-mates and on-track game faces appearing between the near-constant laughter. The 13-foot long, 26.5bhp hovercrafts tested the drivers' skills, as they provided little traction. The drivers relied on counter steering to glide through the course at a top speed of 48 kph as they worked their way through each round of the contest. Dry desert wind and ample dust only added to the skill needed to tackle the unique challenge.
Ricciardo and Tsunoda, who were pitted against each other in mini jet boats in Miami, proved to be a formidable hovercrafting team. While Verstappen and Pérez won the first challenge and put up a solid fight to the end, the Scuderia AlphaTauri drivers were able to eke out the overall win 2-1.
"It's fun to be out here in the desert ahead of the Las Vegas GP. I think the hovercrafts look really cool and they were really fun to drive. They were slower than I thought they would be, but I suppose you're floating over the ground. The challenges are fun, especially when you get to do it together as a team with Checo and Scuderia AlphaTauri. This series has been fun this year. We've driven lots of different vehicles all over the world and I think that makes it beautiful," said Verstappen.
I ended up eating a lot of sand, so I don't need lunch today
Regarding the hovercrafts, Pérez commented: "I've seen them, but I’ve never driven a hovercraft before, so it’s my first time. I ended up eating a lot of sand, so I don't need lunch today. They collapse and go into the floor when you unbalance them, so it was quite challenging – you have to think a lot while driving them."
Of the upcoming Las Vegas race, he said: "I think Las Vegas is a unique venue - with the fans, the racing at night for the first time here. I think people are really going to enjoy it.”
"I definitely enjoy doing these things," said Ricciardo. "On a race week we have the race, that’s our primary focus and on track everything's so competitive, so to spend some time with not only Yuki, but also Max and Checo, and to be out here in the desert in an environment where we're all just having a laugh – these are probably the best workdays we can get."
"I didn't know how hovercraft behave," said Tsunoda. "It's actually a lot of fun, lots of drifting, but at the same time you have to control the throttle precisely to make it turn quickly. If you use too much throttle and touch too much ground, you just stop, so there’s fine tuning and that makes it difficult. Overall, it's really, really fun."
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