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Formula One stars Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez race SailGP boats

It’s Formula 1… on the water! Red Bull stars Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez compete with 100kph SailGP boats in Saint-Tropez before heading to the Italian Grand Prix in Monza

  • Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez exchanged cars for catamarans
  • They teamed up with the Australian and American SailGP crews in Saint-Tropez
  • Fifth round of the SailGP series takes place in the South of France this weekend
  • State-of-the-art F50 boats can reach top speeds of 100 km/h on the water
  • SailGP is known as the Formula 1 of sailing and the drivers saw why

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The high-octane sport of SailGP has come to be known as Formula 1 on the water and this week Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez found out why.

The Red Bull drivers teamed up with champion sailors Tom Slingsby and Jimmy Spithill at Saint-Tropez to race each other on state-of-the-art hydrofoiling F50 catamarans capable of speeds of 100 km/h.

Verstappen arrives in the south of France, where the next SailGP will take place this weekend, fresh from victory in his own Dutch Grand Prix, extending his huge lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.

Red Bull World Championship leader Max Verstappen tried another high-speed sport when he took to the water with United States SailGP driver Jimmy Spithill in Saint-Tropez

Red Bull World Championship leader Max Verstappen tried another high-speed sport when he took to the water with United States SailGP driver Jimmy Spithill in Saint-Tropez

Verstappen and Perez teamed up with the Australian and US SailGP teams in three time trials on the waters of the French Riviera

Verstappen and Perez teamed up with the Australian and US SailGP teams in three time trials on the waters of the French Riviera

Verstappen and Perez teamed up with the Australian and US SailGP teams in three time trials on the waters of the French Riviera

Perez, meanwhile, is third in the standings and is on 201 points with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ahead of the upcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza next Sunday.

Verstappen and Perez swapped between Slingsby’s Australian boat and Spithill’s United States F50, took turns to pilot time trials after showing the ropes and both claimed a race win as the US won 2-1.

“I’ve had a pretty incredible experience; I’ve never done anything like that,” said Verstappen.

“SailGP is extremely professional and the race boats are much bigger than expected. It was impressive to see the aerodynamics and the foils.

‘You can’t compare the speeds’ [with F1] but when you reach top speed on the water, it feels very impressive.

Red Bull F1 drivers Sergio Perez (left) and Max Verstappen (right) enter the water with SailGP captains Tom Slingsby (second from left) and Jimmy Spithill (second from right)

Red Bull F1 drivers Sergio Perez (left) and Max Verstappen (right) enter the water with SailGP captains Tom Slingsby (second from left) and Jimmy Spithill (second from right)

Red Bull F1 drivers Sergio Perez (left) and Max Verstappen (right) enter the water with SailGP captains Tom Slingsby (second from left) and Jimmy Spithill (second from right)

Perez and Verstappen short by United States SailGP driver Jimmy Spithill in Saint-Tropez

Perez and Verstappen short by United States SailGP driver Jimmy Spithill in Saint-Tropez

Perez and Verstappen short by United States SailGP driver Jimmy Spithill in Saint-Tropez

Perez tries to 'grind' before hopping aboard the high-tech F50 catamarans

Perez tries to 'grind' before hopping aboard the high-tech F50 catamarans

Perez tries to ‘grind’ before hopping aboard the high-tech F50 catamarans

‘I found it very interesting to see the whole team communicating on the boat, when I’m in the car I only communicate with one person.’

Perez added: “To have the opportunity to experience a new sport today was incredible, it was something unique. We do some racing, but not on the track – on the water.

“Like any sport when you see it from the outside, it’s so different when you really jump into it. It’s so impressive, I have a lot of admiration for what these guys are doing.

“The level of effort these guys put in and the intensity, it was an amazing experience.

The United States beat Australia 2-1 in the best-of-three challenge on the waters of the Med

The United States beat Australia 2-1 in the best-of-three challenge on the waters of the Med

The United States beat Australia 2-1 in the best-of-three challenge on the waters of the Med

Verstappen and Perez are briefed on Oracle Cloud data sharing in SailGP

Verstappen and Perez are briefed on Oracle Cloud data sharing in SailGP

Verstappen and Perez are briefed on Oracle Cloud data sharing in SailGP

“It’s very different like any sport. They have things that are demanding and so do we. It’s hard to say which is heavier, they are both physical sports.

“It is definitely the pinnacle of sailing, these guys have great experience and the best drivers in the world. This is definitely Formula 1.’

Slingsby’s Australian team currently leads the SailGP rankings after four out of 11 races this season, but New Zealand has taken the win in the last two races to close the gap.

The team from Great Britain, led by Olympic sailing legend Sir Ben Ainslie, is in fifth place after sustaining damage when their catamaran ran aground on an unknown rock in Copenhagen last month.

Slingsby said: “We’ve had a pretty big lead since the start of the season, but the Kiwi team is increasing our lead and they’ve closed the gap a lot by winning the last two events.

“We’re getting closer and we have to try to stop the bleeding by getting a podium finish this weekend. A win would be great and get the Kiwis back in the championship a little bit.”

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