Aston Martin Red Bull Racing has established records for the fastest pit stop in Formula 1 history not once, twice, but thrice this season, again breaking its own record at this past weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix. Having the best pit crew in racing history, however, seems to not be enough for Red Bull who recently decided to perform a pit stop in zero gravity.
That doesn't mean a pit crew, a film crew, and a race car had to leave our planet, of course. Red Bull struck a deal with Russian space agency Roscosmos to take its crew and a 2005 RB1 F1 car up in a modified Ilyushin Il-76 MDK "cosmonaut training plane." This Ilyushin then flew in a series of parabolic arcs (up and back down again, over and over), during the downslope of which the plane's occupants get a brief 22 seconds of weightlessness. It's as bizarre an experience as it sounds, and that's why we Americans call NASA's equivalent to this plane the "Vomit Comet."
"It pushed us harder than I thought it would," said Joe Robinson, Red Bull Racing's Support Team Chief Mechanic. "You realize how much you rely on gravity, when you don't have any! Something as straightforward as tightening a wheel nut becomes very difficult when the car is floating, and the only control you have is through the stiffness of your ankles, tucked into floor straps. It challenges you to think and operate in a different way—and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it's the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo Team has ever done with a show car."
Coming from a member of an F1 team whose promotional stunts are as crazy as donuts on the roof of a Miami skyscraper, that's saying something. Knowing Red Bull, of course, this won't be the last stunt they pull with an F1 car—our money's on them figuring out a way to do donuts at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.