Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, captivating fans across the globe. The 2022 season saw an average of 1.7 million UK viewers tuning in for each race; whether it be for the speed, the skill, or just the Dutch national anthem. However, as climate concerns continue to grow, the sport is faced with a challenge. As we move into an era defined by environmental consciousness and global responsibility, Formula 1 must turn its focus towards a more sustainable future.
‘Sustainable’ would probably be one of the last words you would think of when considering Formula 1, which produced 256,551 tonnes of CO2 in the 2018 season. Following this, F1 announced its sustainability strategy and vowed to reach net zero carbon by 2030. Although this sounds a tough task, some important modifications have already been implemented which are having a positive impact.
Recently, the sport has introduced a ban on single-use plastics at events, with over 80% of promoters in the 2022 season helping out via the installation of water refill stations, increased recycling facilities and the provision of refillable cups. Certain parts of cars are now being made of biodegradable materials, and a shift towards renewable energy has been seen in offices and factories, with a transition to 100% renewable energy underway. Changes such as these are having a positive impact, but the major issue lies with the incredibly inefficient and inefficient Formula 1 calendar. The logistics contribute around 45% to the overall CO2 emissions, with 10 racing teams and all of their equipment being required to travel to 23 races held in 20 different countries across 5 continents this season.
The key idea in tackling this issue is by regionalising the calendar to reduce the distances between each race. The current schedule is incredibly illogical, with a 2023 race order which, for example, requires teams to travel from Spain to Canada, only to go straight back to Europe for the Austrian Grand Prix. It has been reported that a new schedule is being planned, consisting of competition in four regions (Middle East, Europe, the Americas and east Asia/Australia), each hosting its own ‘season’. However, there is currently no real timeline for its implementation due to complications arising from existing contracts and the demands of host countries. One of the changes which has already been made for the 2024 season concerns the Japanese Grand Prix – it adopts an April date rather than its traditional autumn slot, so that it can take place in between races in Melbourne and Shanghai.
Meanwhile, teams have been busy redesigning freight containers so that more efficient aircraft can be used to transport equipment, leading to a reduction in emissions of 19.12%. For European races, biofuel trucks were used for transportation, with Mercedes reporting a cut in emissions by around 90% in 2022. Travel of personnel also has a large impact on emissions, so fans are currently being encouraged to travel using public transport, and broadcasting operations are beginning to be carried out remotely.
Perhaps surprisingly, the racing cars only generate 0.7% of emissions, but developments made in this area may be able to have an effect on the global transportation sector as a whole. Having created the most efficient hybrid engine in the world, F1 and the FIA are now working on developing a sustainable fuel which they hope can then be implemented in all cars. It is being designed with a ‘drop-in’ feature to reduce installation costs for use in existing cars. Its impact on the sustainability of F1 would be comparatively small, but if successful, this fuel has the potential to revolutionise the entire car industry and have a huge impact beyond the paddock.
Important changes have already been made, signalling the sport’s determination to drive change. It is of vital importance that F1 continues to prioritise sustainability and reimagine its practices to work towards a better future. The steps which have already been made are encouraging, but the net zero plan is highly ambitious and much more must be done to ensure a green future for the sport.