The popularity of Formula 1 continues to grow. So are the calls to make sport more sustainable.
Thousands of Formula 1 fans will gather at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit on Sunday to witness the highly anticipated conclusion of this year’s very close season.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton could win his eighth world championship, a feat no other F1 driver has accomplished in the sport’s 70-year history. Hamilton and his No.1 rival, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, are tied in the standings.
The glitz and glamor of F1, the world’s first motor racing series, are constantly in the spotlight: the champagne sprays on the podium, the elephantine yachts anchored on the CÃ´te d’Azur for the Monaco Grand Prix, the teams of globetrotters who travel to faraway destinations for races followed closely by 1.9 billion spectators.
With Netflix F1’s hit âDrive to Surviveâ docuseries helping to grow the fan base, the sport’s sustainability efforts and commitments are also gaining attention. Hamilton, the most victorious F1 driver, and Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin, quadruple world champion, called on F1’s governing body to actively change its practices.
Lewis, who has banned plastics from his home and office, sold his private jet and is an investor in UK vegan burger chain Neat Burger, said the sport can harness new synthetic fuels to reduce its carbon footprint .
“I have conversations, I try to empower people in sport,” said Hamilton Wired magazine. “I’m constantly sending emails, I’m constantly on Zoom calls with Formula 1 and challenge them.”
Jennie Gow, an F1 presenter for the BBC who appears on “Drive to Survive”, said Vettel had “the biggest program in terms of influencing the green movement”.
“He has a clear idea of ââwhere he stands when it comes to our impact on the environment and how he would like to make a bigger contribution,” she told ABC News.
In July, Vettel joined 300 volunteers to pick up trash and debris left on the track after the British Grand Prix. He also helped build a bee hotel in the form of an F1 racing car with students to highlight the declining bee population in the world and visited the Icelandic Climeworks Orca factory, the largest direct capture and storage factory in the world. air which permanently removes CO2 from the air.
âIf you look at the big picture, we have a certain responsibility as Formula 1 when we go to different places in the world and have these huge events that generate enormous excitement,â said Vettel. The New York Times earlier this year. âWe can’t just go out there, do our show and then leave everything else behind. To make sure nothing is left behind, we have to be prepared to take a little out of our margin and invest in these things because they come at a cost. “
It’s not just drivers who take durability seriously. Pirelli, F1’s exclusive tire supplier, recycles used team tires – over 1,600 per race – at the company’s seven factories. But the Italian manufacturer wants to do even more to reduce its carbon footprint.
“We are looking at many areas to be greener – from the production process and raw materials to the use of water and sustainable energy in factories and transport”, said Mario Isola, F1 manager. and auto racing at Pirelli, ABC News. âThe process is constantly being revised. We are discussing the possibility of reducing the number of tires that we carry.
Additionally, the company has increased its use of renewable materials, phased out single-use plastics from its runway operations, and successfully complied with a number of sustainability audits focused on carbon emissions. Pirelli has also set a company-wide target of reducing overall CO2 emissions by 25% (from 2015 levels) by 2025 and purchasing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources.
âSustainability is a must for Pirelli,â Isola said.
F1 Managing Director Stefano Domenicali said the sport mission is to achieve a net zero carbon footprint by 2030 and switch to 100% renewable electricity in all F1 facilities and teams. Solar panels have been installed on the French and Canadian circuits, the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain being powered 100% by renewable energies. Around 256,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent are generated over the course of an entire racing season, according to F1.
In 2025, sports officials plan to unveil a new, second-generation hybrid powertrain that will be carbon neutral and powered by advanced sustainable fuel, a top priority for the series. A global fan survey, conducted this year by Nielsen Sports, Motorsport Network and F1, revealed that two-thirds of respondents from 187 countries “are aware of F1’s desire to introduce sustainable fuels by the mid-2020s.”
Williams Racing, a historic F1 team, announced in October that it is committed to becoming climate positive by 2030. The team is a signatory to the UNFCCC climate action framework and recently obtained the three-star environmental accreditation from the FIA.
âFormula 1 has the ability to create technical solutions to help meet the challenges we face as a planet. As we move towards our goal of being climate positive in the years to come, I hope that Williams Racing can inspire all those linked to our sport and beyond, using motorsport as a catalyst for meaningful and lasting change, âsaid Jost Capito, CEO of Williams Racing, in a statement.
Fred Smith, editor-in-chief at Road & Track, said F1 has been slow to implement sustainable policies and programs. He pointed to the extreme race schedules that force the 10 teams and support staff to crisscross various continents week after week.
“It’s the weight of a circus,” Smith told ABC News of the teams’ air travel. “Heavy carbon offsets are needed.”
He added: “F1 is less concerned with sustainability than drivers. It is not too concerned with local or environmental issues.”
Smith would like F1 to take a similar approach to Extreme E, a new concept in motorsport where drivers compete in electric SUVs in five remote landscapes that are “already damaged or seriously threatened by climate change due to a series of serious issues, including melting ice caps , deforestation, desertification and sea level rise, “according to the race series.
Scientists travel with the five Extreme E teams aboard RMS St Helena, a former British Royal Mail freighter which has been refurbished and transformed into a “floating paddock” and science base. Fans are not allowed to attend off-road races and each team is limited to eight people (two pilots, one engineer and five mechanics).
Extreme E even appointed an independent scientific committee to advise on the series’ education and research programs, logistics and impact of the event, as well as recommend initiatives that support local communities in each race venue. . Hamilton of F1 is the founder of X44 team.
Constant travel is unlikely to change in F1, according to Gow, and untapped markets like Africa could be added to the demanding racing schedule for years to come.
“Racing will continue to take place all over the world. F1 is a global sport and appeals to many different markets,” she said, adding: “F1 is taking many steps to reduce its carbon footprint . It has a real sustainable development program impact. “