The who swallows gases, a glamorous polluter roaring with his indifference to the problems the planet is facing, Formula one has a problem with the picture in times of climate emergencies. But is this a more just verdict? F1 sports director Ross Brawn believes the sports technology battlefield is turning into an environmental science lab looking for solutions to problems that cannot be ignored.
F1 has a lot of work to do to make a difference, but it is on a path that deserves recognition and perhaps a re-examination of the way it is perceived. Brawn describes the new direction as mandatory both commercially and morally. “Every person who thinks is worried about climate change,” he says. “I’m worried about it, my engineers are worried about it – it’s something we can’t ignore. For F1, it would be very useful to show the technology we can improve to help reduce greenhouse gases.
“We have a mantra: an F1 fan should be proud to be an F1 fan. It’s not just about the excitement on the track, but also showing that F1 can make a difference in society. We all feel it sincerely. “
In 2019, F1 committed to zero carbon by 2030. published an extensive report in its impact on the environment, including the discovery of its 256,000 tons of CO2 shows every season.
Dealing with this is extremely ambitious. The report states that 45% of the carbon is from air, sea and road transport, which is logistically needed for each race, and a further 27.7% from the transport of staff, promoters and partners. As with all major sporting events, this can be reduced but not eliminated, and F1 has pledged to make up for this by planting trees and carbon capture technology.
Such efforts are not happening fast enough for some, and world champion Lewis Hamilton questions why big industries, governments and sports have not acted more radically. “F1 is just doing it [net carbon neutral status] in 10 years and I don’t fully understand why that hasn’t changed sooner, ”he said. “These big corporations that have a lot of money and power behind them and can definitely make change happen faster, but that’s not their number one priority. Until it gets to the point where it’s a No. 1 priority for governments and the world, then it will continue to be slow. “
The correct point is reflected in the widespread frustration over many results recent Glasgow Cop26 conference. However, F1 says it is at least taking action, and Brawn believes it is developing a new technology in which sport can really make a difference.
Today’s Formula 1 cars have 52% thermal efficiency, a figure believed to be almost unattainable and 20% higher than road cars.
Still, it is the near future that sport believes represents the greatest promise. From next season, F1 will introduce the use of 10% sustainable fuel. Until the introduction of new regulations on engines in 2025, only 100% fully sustainable fuel will be used. Fuel that does not emit carbon without emissions during use, made from a biocomponent that comes from a biological source that does not compete with food production or land use, or fuel that uses carbon trapped and removed directly from the air. In fact, F1 says only 0.7% of all-season carbon emissions come from the cars themselves, but broader implications are important for the sport.
Brawn welcomes the electrification campaign, but notes that there is no single magic bullet to address the climate crisis. Electric cars require energy – most of which is still obtained from fossil fuel power plants. Likewise, a study by BloombergNEF estimates that their use will be only 8% of the 1.4 billion cars globally by 2030. The fuel F1 proposes, and according to which teams will build their engines, targets that very harmful 92%. Fuel will be delivered, which means it can run on standard engines without conversion. The Greens welcomed the move with caution, but noted that a fundamental change in attitudes towards traffic was needed.
“While Formula 1 is actually right that electric vehicles are not the main solution to reduce carbon in transport and that we need to explore alternative fuels, especially for trucks, this technology should not be an excuse for normal business,” said a Green Party spokesman. Caroline Russell. “It doesn’t matter how cars start, they continue to contribute to road hazards, congestion and unhealthy PM2.5 particles due to tire wear.
“State-of-the-art fuel technology can help clean up remaining vehicles on the road, but government policy should focus on making walking, cycling and public transport the safest and most convenient choice for most everyday travel, and making cargo more efficient and mobile. more by rail. ”
F1 can’t change government policy, but Brawn believes the sport can provide a short-term, immediate alternative to gasoline for cars on the road. “With the fierce technology competition in F1, we’re likely to get there faster than any other environment I can think of,” he says. “The vaccine race was impressive, we suddenly got the vaccine in a very short time. This has never been done before. We now have a climate race and we need to find solutions at the same speed.
“The engineers in the F1 team are very selfish, they don’t spend a shred of energy on anything other than speeding up the car. If we challenge them to this goal of sustainable fuel, they will make every effort to do so when they know it will give them a potential competitive advantage. ”
Crucially, it could also be a step towards tackling our own F1 emissions and the single most unsolvable problem of the impact of global transport on the environment. Electrical technology is currently not efficient enough to work for heavy-duty long-haul trucks, shipping or aviation. All three sectors are major polluters. Sustainable low-carbon fuel would make a huge difference and F1 has already discussed the concept with the Department of Transport and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Just as in the past this sport had advanced automotive technology, the F1 is repositioned as a test platform to change the terrain for internal combustion engines in a direct and applicable way. With ambitious plans being made for Cop26, Brawn insists more technology must be pursued if goals are to be met, especially in transportation, and that striving for electrification alone would be a mistake.
“No more blah blah blah” was a scathing rejection of Cop26 by Greta Thunberg. F1 has at least a chosen action. The old dinosaur with fossil fuel is obsolete and irrelevant. Being part of the change for the future is the sport’s only hope that it will remain relevant and could still prove to be part of the solution, not the problem.