Written by Emily Sands, Edited by Sameena Khan
On the 12th of November 2019, Formula 1 announced plans to have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030 and to be completely sustainable at race events by 2025.
No doubt exists that climate change is attacking planet Earth. We are experiencing intense droughts, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers and our oceans are warming. We are contributing to direct harm towards animal habitats and humans' livelihoods too. As climate change worsens, today's scenarios will become more deadly.
So, how can we start to make a change? Raise awareness, reduce single-use plastics, change to electric hybrid transportation, recycle and reuse. However, the changes that global companies can make will benefit our planet the most.
With the announcement of the new 24-race season for Formula 1, there were a lot of fans online who struggled to understand how this would help their net-zero strategy. Since the announcement three years ago, what progress has Formula 1 made?
One of the biggest misconceptions in the sport is that race cars are the reason why CO2 pollution is so heavy. However, if we consider the number of lorries, private jets, fan travel, and other modes of transportation that have to operate all year round, this contributed 45% of the total 265,551 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the 2021 season.
For Formula 1 to be committed to this net-zero target by 2030, they must get everybody on board. The teams and their sponsors, promoters, manufacturers and the FIA governing board are currently all for becoming net zero. F1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali said, ‘’Everyone understands the need for change’’.
After a lot of planning, the first step by Formula 1 was their commitment to becoming 100% sustainable at race weekends as of 2025. Formula 1 began this year in 2022 and issued a list of six vital steps that needed to be taken into consideration by their on-track promoters.
The six steps were the following:
Local fan travel
Wellbeing and nature
I attended the 2022 Silverstone Grand Prix, and it was immediately clear to me that they are trying to become more sustainable regarding food stands and reusable water solutions. There were multiple water pumps in hotspots around the circuit for fans to refill their water bottles. I noticed that most takeaway food packaging was cardboard. There was a range of recycling bins and reusable beer cups back at our campsite too.
A great example of fans helping reduce their logistic emissions was at Zandvoort, where 25,000 fans used bikes to get to the track, whilst another 40,000 used public transport or walked. I don’t know if any of you have been to the Netherlands, but when I was there, I constantly tried to avoid being run over by a bicycle.
Certain race tracks have installed solar panels. These create enough energy all year round to supply the entire Grand Prix weekend. Circuit Paul Ricard and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve have adopted this method of renewable energy. As of this year, the Circuit de Catalunya and the Sakhir International Circuit are 100% renewably powered.
The next step is going to take place in 2026 when there are goals for the Formula 1 cars to be running on 100% sustainable fuels. As of 2022, the cars were running on 10% renewable ethanol and 90% fuel. Formula 1 works closely with Aramco to achieve its 100% sustainable fuel goal. To help with reducing the number of freight emissions from logistics, Formula 1’s managing director Ross Brawn, has said that they are working with DHL to make transport more efficient for future seasons.
As I mentioned, the 2023 calendar will be 24 races, the highest number of races we’ve ever had per season in the sport’s history. Multiple team principals have stated that this is the limit for their staff and the budget cap rules push the teams to be extra careful with their spending.
Circuits that host the Grand Prix agree to long-term contracts, sometimes five, even ten years long. One circuit this year that received a lot of attention was the new Miami Grand Prix. We saw the likes of Sebastian Vettel wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Act now or swim later’. Sebastian has even said that his decision to retire was partly due to his beloved sport's effect on the planet. Drivers using their platforms to influence their fans, those of all ages, to help educate them on how to help our world is a great way to raise awareness. However, now that the FIA has banned drivers from being able to speak about political/ social issues whilst they're on the grid, it might be left to Sebastian to carry on his environmental work.
Formula 1 has said that they are working closely with event organisers to bunch up the calendar for next year to lower their freight emissions throughout the season. With up to 80% of promoters/collaborators working with Formula 1 to become sustainable, the 2030 goal is achievable.
Pirelli, Formula 1’s tyre supplier, has ‘aggressive’ sustainability plans.
Pirelli boss Mario Isola made an appearance on Sky Sports coverage during a practice session at Suzuka, explaining their goals. In 2024 we will see the ban on tyre blankets come into play, meaning they must remake the tyres from scratch. This will be achievable with a range of tests and possibly made harder with new technology from the result of their sustainability plan. At the moment, the disposed of tyres are put through a process called ‘pyrolysis’, which means they can break the tyres back down into products that can be reused in chemicals, tyres, or other industries. Pirelli tyres also undergo ‘granulation’, in which end-of-life tyres are ground down and used for asphalt, kerbs and other construction areas - including athletic tracks, football pitches and basketball courts.
We're still seven years away from our 2030 target, which might seem like a long time, but as we’re heading into 2023, we should be seeing more solutions and having regular updates from Formula 1 and the progress they are making to tackle climate change. So, when you’re at your next Grand Prix, have a look for sustainable solutions at the track and help to be a part of this significant change.