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The climate emergency accelerates F1 efforts to improve its image | Formula One

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The energy-consuming juggernaut, the screaming polluter screaming his indifference to the problems facing the planet, Formula 1 has an image problem in the era of climate emergency. But is this still a fair judgment? F1 sporting director Ross Brawn believes the technological battlefield of sports is turning into an environmental science laboratory seeking solutions to problems that cannot be ignored.

F1 has a lot to do to make a difference, but it is embarking on a path that deserves to be recognized and perhaps reassessed on how it is perceived. Brawn describes the new leadership as binding both commercially and morally. “Every thoughtful person is concerned about climate change,” he says. “I care, my engineers care – it’s something we can’t ignore. It would be very rewarding for F1 to demonstrate the technology that we can bring forward 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 really feel it. “

In 2019, F1 made a commitment to be zero carbon by 2030. The sport has published a detailed report on its environmental impact, revealing in particular its 256,000 tonnes of CO2 shows every season.

Addressing it is extremely ambitious. The report indicates that 45% of the carbon comes from air, sea and road transport logistically necessary to organize each race and an additional 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 is committed to making up for it through tree planting and carbon capture technology.

Such efforts don’t happen quickly enough for some, with world champion Lewis Hamilton wondering why big industries, governments and even sports aren’t acting more drastically. “F1 just applies it [net carbon neutral status] 10 years from now and I don’t really understand why that doesn’t change sooner, ”he said. “These big companies that have a lot of money and power behind them and can certainly accelerate change, but it’s not their # 1 priority. Until there’s a point where it’s the # 1 priority for governments and for the world, then it’s going to continue to be a slow burner. “

The climate emergency accelerates F1 efforts to improve its image |  Formula One

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“It would be very rewarding for F1 to demonstrate the technology that we can take to help reduce greenhouse gases,” said Ross Brawn. Photograph: Dan Istitene / Formula 1 / Getty Images

A fair point which is reflected in the generalized frustration with many of the results of the recent Glasgow Cop26 conference. However, F1 says it is at least taking action and Brawn believes it is developing new technology where sport can really make a difference.

Formula 1 cars today have a thermal efficiency of 52%, a figure that is thought to be nearly impossible to achieve and 20% higher than that of road cars.

Yet it is the near future that the sport believes holds the most promise. From next season, F1 will introduce the use of 10% sustainable fuels. As new engine regulations are introduced in 2025, only 100% fully sustainable fuel will be used. A fuel that emits zero carbon in use, made from a biocomponent from a biological source that does not compete with food production or land use or that uses captured carbon and extracts directly from the air. In fact, F1 says only 0.7% of an entire season’s carbon emissions come from the cars themselves, but for the sport, it’s the broader implications that matter.

The march towards electrification is welcomed by Brawn, but he notes that there are no quick fixes to solving the climate emergency. Electric cars need electricity, much of which still comes from fossil fuel power plants. Likewise, BloombergNEF research estimates that their use will only account for 8% of the 1.4 billion cars in the world by 2030. The fuel offered by F1, and towards which teams will build their engines, is aimed at this 92 % very damaging. The fuel will be a drop-in, which means it can run in standard engines without conversion. The move was greeted with caution by the Green Party, while noting that a fundamental change is needed in attitude towards transportation.

“Although Formula 1 is right to say that electric vehicles are not the main solution to reduce carbon emissions from transport and that we need to explore alternative fuels, especially for heavy trucks, this technology should not be an excuse to continue as if nothing had happened, “said the spokesman for the Greens. Caroline Russell. “No matter how cars are powered, they always contribute to road hazards, traffic jams and unhealthy pm2.5 particle pollution from tire wear.

“Advanced fuel technology can help clean the vehicles left on the road, but government policy should focus on walking, biking and public transportation the safest and most convenient choice for the city. most daily trips, and on the freight transportation more efficient and convenient. more by train.

F1 can’t change government policy, but Brawn believes the sport can provide an immediate, short-term alternative to gasoline for cars on the road. “With the heated technological competition in F1, we’ll probably get there faster than any other environment I can think of,” he said. “The vaccine race was impressive, so we had a vaccine in a very short time. It had never been done before. We are now in the climate race and we must find solutions at the same speed.

“The engineers on an F1 team are very selfish, they don’t waste an ounce of energy on anything other than making the car go faster. If we challenge them around this sustainable fuel goal, they will pull out all the stops when they know it will give them a potential competitive advantage.

Importantly, it can also be a step towards solving F1’s own emissions and the most intractable problem of the environmental impact of global transport. Electric technology is currently not efficient enough to work for long haul heavy goods vehicles, shipping or aviation. All three sectors are big polluters. A sustainable low-carbon fuel would make a huge difference and F1 has already discussed the concept with the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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Just as in the past sport has driven automotive technology forward, F1 is repositioning itself as a test bed to change the playing field for combustion engines in a straightforward and applicable way. With ambitious plans set at Cop26, Brawn insists that several technologies must be pursued if goals are to be met, especially in transportation, and that aspiring to electrification would be a mistake.

“No more blah blah blah” was the caustic dismissal of Cop26 by Greta Thunberg. F1 has at the very least chosen action. The old-fashioned fossil fuel dinosaur is obsolete and irrelevant. Being part of a change for the future is the sport’s only hope of remaining relevant and it could still turn out to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

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