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Interview with Formula 1 broadcast partner for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, Inga Stracke

Conducted by Emily Sands, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Image credits - Thomas Melzer

Back in September 2022, it was announced that Formula 1 would be increasing their race calendar to 24 race weekends for the 2023 season. After a little bit of research and calculation, this meant the Formula 1 circus would be travelling 133,735 kilometres next year and that was without going back home and to the factories in between races.

With Formula 1’s plans and commitments announced in 2019 to have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030, this raised questions as to how they would achieve the same, and was increasing the amount of races a good idea?

To get more of a perspective on the sustainable choices Formula 1 are already making, I spoke to Inga Stracke; a Formula 1 broadcast partner for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

A few months ago, we had the announcement from Formula 1 regarding the 24 race calendar, for 2023. Hand-in-hand with F1’s sustainability goals for 2030. What does this mean for Formula One's plans to have a net-zero carbon footprint for 2030?

For Formula One, it is definitely a challenging approach, but at the same time, they know that they need to do it. And it includes delivering 100% Sustainable fuels, which is happening step- by-step. In a few years time, that will be visible more clearly, and I think it's very much the need of the hour. I think it's very important, and also pointing out that means Formula One is not just looking at the fuels, it's about looking at the calendar as well. As you said, they're looking at biofuels, events, talking with their race promoters, and people on-site at every race. They’re looking at their own operations, diversity and inclusion. So, the overall programme is super interesting. And if you know Formula One, as I have for many years, it's great to see how they are really starting to move, and are really pushing. And I think they will be doing really well.

With regards to the travelling and workload increase for 2023, what was the response like from the teams and drivers on the grid?

In general, a lot of the people involved working in Formula 1, especially mechanics and those who really are on the road for a lot of the time, think it's too many races. But then, again, it's all about the show, it's all about the money. It all has to do with the budget caps that Formula 1 have implemented. That means they can't just go and hire new people… We used to have test teams and race teams. Now we do not have as many tests, but we have more races. They can't just go and hire a whole new group of people to, you know, go and fill in for some of the races. That is going to be a challenge for Formula 1. They have already said they are looking at the calendar to design it in a more environment-friendly manner, looking to group races such as Canada, the US, and South America, together. At the same time, those races used to be spread apart across the calendar, because they didn't want fans to say, ‘’Oh, I've been there two weeks ago, I'm not going again.’’ They wanted fans to go and say, ‘’Oh, I was there in March. That was really cool. Now there's a race in my area again. I want to go.’’ So that's a really difficult task to keep everybody happy.

These contracts are pre-agreed as well, going forward for the full length of their contract with Formula 1. Just mentioning on your point that having more destinations added to the calendar means there's more potential for fans getting into the sport, therefore more money coming in. But do you think this decision is a good step forward?

Difficult question. Really hard to say. I mean, all in all, of course, it's good for every sport to have more fans. Formula 1 has gained a lot of fans through their Netflix series, ‘Drive To Survive’. These are fans who have watched Formula 1 through this series, which is more for show. So more money, of course, theoretically, of course good for the sport, more action, but it's also, as I said before, a big challenge to make this sustainable as well, and not wear out all the employees. The drivers have been two-sided. For instance, Sebastian Vettel said, if you put in more races, there has to be a cut where it's too many, and where more can be added. And also look at the calendar, the transportation, everything that is involved, and see if you can still achieve the sustainability goals, that should be above everything.

You mentioned Sebastian Vettel, who has been very vocal about sustainability in general, and also for the sport. And he also did mention that it had influenced his retirement, and do you think the FIA and Formula 1 bosses will listen to these actions and maybe think ‘’Okay, maybe we do need to change the way that we're planning to go forward.’’?

I think they have already listened, and begun to change their ways, not just because of Sebastian Vettel. I would have wished for him to continue racing, because as an active racing driver, he is a very vocal person, just like Lewis Hamilton with his diversity programmes. With the actions he's taking, and a foundation that he has started, through which he's actively making changes, not just talking. And I think Sebastian Vettel, as an active driver, could have done more, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe as a retired driver, with his reputation, he can also actively do a lot. I'm working with BWT on my charity efforts for ‘Make a Wish Foundation’ and BWT have in turn, been working with Sebastian Vettel. One of their main targets is to get rid of, and eliminate single-use plastic like bottles. They've been distributing reusable drink bottles, and those are one of the main targets.

You just mentioned BWT, who also sponsor Alpine, which is something that, you know, is bringing a lot more attention towards the sport by having these sustainable sponsors. We've also got sponsors for example, Aston Martin being sponsored by Aramco, a massive oil company in Saudi Arabia. Do you think it would be vital for more sustainable companies to start partnering with these brands that have such a big voice?

Yeah, I think so. I mean, for BWT, I knew them before they became the global partner Formula 1. They were a very small sponsor, and I talked to them then. Nobody knows this as they don't really talk much about it, but they did have a programme as in, when they scored points with their team, they would find and build a fountain in Africa in areas where people don't have water. They then sell the water to them at a very cheap price, and hire people to work there with the money they make. So, it's more than just “Oh, we go and give them water”, It's about helping them. And you mentioned Aramco. Aramco is actually heavily involved in the sustainability fuel system that Formula 1 is implementing step-by-step, and that is an area where they themselves say that Formula 1 has the greatest voice in the global transportation sector, not just in racing, but overall worldwide.

And just moving on to the contract that Miami has signed, which runs for 10 years. It is one of the cities at higher risk in the world, because of climate change and rising sea levels. Why do you think that they would partner with Formula 1? Considering climate change is clearly a massive issue for them?

When we talked about Sebastian Vettel, I have to mention him again. In Miami earlier this season, he was wearing a shirt saying, ‘Act now or swim later’. That is a big message conveyed. I think, you know, those in Miami want a show, and that was all about the show for that race, at the same time, they know Formula 1 is aware of the issue. And yes, maybe the changes in Formula 1 are even pushed further by races like Miami. Formula 1 does have a programme where they work very closely with their race promoters, in terms of having more events involving alternative energy sources such as solar panels, SPIF biofuels, engaging the local communities. For example - Allowing surplus food donations post race, public transport at the races, that is something they also very much looking at in Miami.

We have other racing series such as Moto E and Formula E. Felipe Massa commented a while ago that he thinks there could be a possibility of Formula E overtaking Formula 1 in the future. Do you think that that's likely to happen?

Look, I have friends and family, and I don't want to upset them, but I think Formula 1 has more chances than Formula E. This is because Formula 1 can work with biofuels, and they have the most efficient hybrid engine, which can be seen as a leading example that can be looked at by all car manufacturers, who are already producing, or planning to produce hybrid engines. This, coupled with the use of sustainable fuels can actually be, and don't get me wrong, be better for the environment, and more sustainable than Formula E, unless Formula E is able to source their electricity entirely from green energy, and not using diesel engines. And of course, on top of that, the production of all those batteries is also not as environmentally friendly. So I am hoping, and rooting for Formula 1. I've spoken to them about their really ambitious goals, and I'm hoping that Formula 1 will stay ahead, or Formula 2, and they won't be overtaken by Formula E.

Let’s talk about Pirelli’s sustainable goals. I remember hearing Mario Isola, the head of Pirelli speaking on Sky Sports, and he was explaining what their goals are for the waste from tires, because they get through a lot of tires in any given weekend, and obviously, the season a lot more. What can we expect from Pirelli’s sustainable goals moving forward?

Well, Mario Isola stated that they are already looking at working with more renewable materials, they are working to add the elimination of single use plastics from on track activities. That is something also BWT is putting into place. And they are also working on an overall CO2 emission reduction, to bring them down to only 25% by 2025. They are also looking at green energy, electricity, and they’re also looking at recovering valuable materials from motorsport tyres at the end of their lives. So I think, especially Pirelli, and it's great that you mentioned that they have a very good potential to increase sustainability, and therefore helping not just Formula 1, but more to motorsports overall.

And finally, I wanted to ask you about the work you mentioned, your collaboration with BWT and with Formula 1, for ‘Make a Wish’. How do you help out in this organisation?

I started working for “Make a Wish” nine years ago. I decided at the end of a successful Formula 1 season, where we travelled everywhere safe and sound, that I wanted to give something back to the sport. I've had children attend many races, and I get passes from Formula 1, following which I take them into the paddock. Some children have a wish, which is just to meet a driver, some just want to watch a race live. At the moment, I have a boy from Italy, and all he wants to do is meet the Ferrari engineers, as he too dreams of becoming an engineer someday. It's really sweet but it takes a lot of work. It's all worth it when you see the smile on those children's faces. Many years ago, I decided at the end of a successful Formula 1 season, where we travelled everywhere safe and sound, that I wanted to give something back. So, I started the Formula 1 charity event in Abu Dhabi at the last race, and all the benefits go to ‘Make a Wish’ foundation. We fulfil critically ill children's wishes, and that's the work of a global organisation. I've been supported really nicely by Formula 1, and their sustainability Partner BWT. So, when we have a children's wish, we start getting the children excited, by sending them a little gift, and one of the gifts we're sending them, for example, is a reusable drinks bottle in the iconic pink from BWT. That teaches the children sustainability, at the same time, it gets them excited and helps them connect to Formula 1. Then, we have an event where we use filtered water, we don't use plastic bottles. We try to teach the children sustainability, and of course, those children come from all over the world with all kinds of backgrounds. So it's a complete inclusion, diversity, and sustainability, and I'm really grateful to Formula 1 for helping me with this. I think it also shows that, you know, they are willing to do whatever it takes to change the sport for a better future.

I would like to thank Inga for speaking to me, and being a part of something that has an influence on sustainability, and for her remarkable work with ‘Make a Wish’.


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