On the limit of control: Max Verstappen drives a Formula 1 car on ice

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If you put together Max Verstappen – the reigning Formula 1 world champion – a Red Bull Formula 1 car from the team that has won four manufacturers’ titles, the beautiful snowy scenery of Zell Am See in Austria, and local ice speedway star Franky Zorn, you get a winter challenge like no other. Keeping the show – or rather, the Formula 1 car – on the road were Pirelli’s Sottozero Ice J1 rally tyres, complete with 384 tungsten-tipped studs, as used on the demanding Rally Sweden: part of the World Rally Championship.

The 2021 Formula 1 world champion accepted the challenge set by legendary Austrian ice speedway rider Franky Zorn, European champion in 2008, to get behind the wheel of the 2012 Red Bull RB8 and do a few laps of the GP Ice Race circuit, next to the airport at Zell am See. As a result, Verstappen’s very first outing with the iconic number 1 on the nose of his car took place using Pirelli’s studded snow tyres.

The Pirelli Sottozero Ice J1 tyres use studs that are 20 millimetres long with a seven-millimetre protrusion to bite into the road surface and generate grip not just on fresh snow, but also on compacted snow and ice. Each stud is fixed firmly into the tyre as part of a Pirelli-patented technological process during vulcanisation, which guarantees a high level of stud retention. These rally tyres are asymmetric, meaning that there’s a different pattern on the inside compared to the outside of the tread, helping to optimise grip and traction. Looking at the video filmed by the Milton Keynes-based squad, they seem to be equally effective on a Formula 1 car too...

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