As if the F1 season wasn’t busy enough already, the mechanics at Red Bull Racing have found time to complete a pit-stop on one of their F1 show cars – in zero gravity.
The stunt took place at 33,000 feet(ish) on an Ilyushin Il-76 MDK cosmonaut training plane, which climbs to high altitude and then completes a number of ballistic arcs that simulate zero gravity for up to 22 seconds at a time.
The team’s actual race weekend mechanics worked on the small, lightweight 2005 RB1, which had been secured to the plane to stop it crushing any of the staff accidentally. It took the guys some time to get used to the totally alien sensation of doing anything at all without gravity, especially after a period at 2G during the climbs before each parabola, but eventually they and the 10-person film crew put together a pretty awesome short film, featuring – of course – Johann Strauss II’s By the Beautiful Blue Danube, otherwise known as that music you’ve heard a thousand times but still don’t know what it’s called.
Mechanic Paul Knight, one of the men on the task, said:
“The first parabola we did was really quite strange. Nothing can prepare you, so our Roscosmos [Russian space agency] instructors told us to simply sit through it and get used to the experience.
“There isn’t a sensation of going up or down; climbing at 2G, with twice your normal bodyweight feels like being planted into the ground and you struggle to move. Then that sensation reverses when you go over the top and into freefall. They held us down to stop us floating away!”
The video required 25 shots to be completed inside the aircraft. With one test flight and around 70 remaining parabolas – the zero-gravity arcs – in which to get all the shots done, the maximum allowed was 2-3 takes per shot. Each parabola was separated by just a few minutes, making on-the-fly problem-solving a bit of a mission.
Support team chief mechanic Joe Robinson spoke of the damage the RB1 accrued in the process of the shoot. He said:
“We were ready for any repairs that needed doing, though actually we got through the filming relatively unscathed. It did pick up some damage, of course. One guy landed helmet-first on the front wing, which made a mess.
“It got a laugh in the factory when I took it back after the event and explained I needed a repair because a cosmonaut had head-butted it.”