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F1: The race for sustainability

In 2019 Formula 1 announced their pledge to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030, a landmark goal for the sport which is often critiqued for its environmental impact.

F1 has also committed itself to a critical milestone by 2026: 100% sustainable synthetic fuel. This is something in which Pat Symonds, F1’s chief technical director, has stressed on multiple occasions. But will the sport actually manage to fulfil its promises?

So far across the ten racing teams involved in the F1, all have promised to shake up their practices to achieve better sustainability. Single use plastics are being eliminated from stadiums and team headquarters, with fully recyclable packaging being introduced to eliminate waste.

The mission is a massive step forward for the motor industry, and with the increased global phenomenon that the F1 has become, there is no doubt that it will have some form of global influence. As with any sport, the drivers themselves become role models and whether they like it or not, they too hold some form of responsibility.

We can't all be perfect but we can all be like Aston Martin’s first seat driver, Sebastian Vettel. The man is an advocate for environmentalism and uses his platform and fame to showcase this, from concerns about rising sea levels to simply picking up litter at Silverstone.

However, as nice as it is to see drivers actually caring about how their sport impacts the environment, it means nothing unless the F1 actually sticks to its 2030 plans. The F1 currently holds a sustainability score of 60/100 which is underwhelming, trailing behind Formula E- F1’s fully electric counterpart which holds a sustainability score of 79/100 due to its white hot technology.

But this isn’t solely down to the race itself. Hidden from view, are F1’s global logistics operations and business travels, which are an inevitable consequence of delivering a World Championship.

According to data released by the F1’s own study, track activity is only 0.7% of the emissions produced by the sport. Just under half of the emissions (45%) is down to logistics and personnel travel is 27.7% of it, comprising of not only air travel but accommodation too.

So, if F1 wants to become sustainable, how do we reduce that 45%? Well, first of all it would make more sense to host the races within the same continent rather than continent hopping for half the year. For example, the F1 calendar will usually jump from European countries to Canada, back to Europe and then back to North and South America. The flights and shipment of equipment to and from continents not only increase the carbon footprint of the F1, but also of the actual drivers and their team too.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw Formula 1 become remote which reduced travelling freight by 34%, while the number of travelling staff was reduced by 37%. Instead of moving freight and people, the F1 moved large quantities of data – more than 160 terabytes – to the media and technology centre in Biggin Hill, near London, each weekend, drastically reducing the environmental impact.

Whilst it may only be a small step, pushing the F1 remotely is a great way to reduce the amount of emissions produced by accommodation and personnel travel requirements, which will help to achieve the carbon neutral goals by 2030.

As much as I would like to think that there would one day be a world where the F1 does not have an impact on the world, I don’t believe this could ever be the case. Drivers and teams will always have to travel globally, and fans will always do the same. However, achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 will still be a massive achievement and is indisputably a great example to set for other world renowned sports organisations.

Lucy Jackson, Cohort 34, Junior Content Producer Apprentice at Tao


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