As drivers for one of the top teams in Formula One, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen regularly drive for a living one of the most advanced automobiles ever devised. But while in Azerbaijan for the grand prix this weekend, they swapped their single-seaters for something much simpler.
Formerly known as the Niva (or Cossack in some markets), the Lada 4×4 has been in production for over 40 years now. That makes it one of the longest-running production vehicles in the world.
But that’s precisely what they climbed into for this latest race. Pitted against a couple of locals (with better knowledge of the terrain), the Red Bull Racing duo took to the rocky terrain of the Gobustan Reservation. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is packed with mud volcanoes, and holds decidedly different terrain to the Baku City Circuit on which the grand prix is held.
“It was a lot of fun. A lot of rocks! But it was a good day,” said Verstappen.” I find it quite fascinating that so close to the sea you have this kind of landscape, it’s really beautiful. We got some fun drifting going, did a bit of filming with the cars and I have to say I enjoyed it. The local guys knew the terrain pretty well but, unfortunately for them, we were just a bit faster.”
“Fortunately, the Lada handled like an absolute gem,” added Ricciardo, who rode shotgun as navigator. “Any time Max got into a slide I felt he could bring it back, so I had confidence, but there were definitely some ‘oh boy!’ moments. I’m actually glad I was with Max and not the local guys! They were kind of loose. I was happy to be with Max.”
Why the Lada, you wonder? Well, for one thing, it’s manufactured nearby in Kazahstan, Ukraine, and Russia. It also happens to fall under the same corporate umbrella as Renault, which supplies Red Bull’s engines. And it has, um… four wheels. But that’s about as far as the similarities go. Watch how they fared in the video below.