F1 doubles down on sustainability drive

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It is just over a year since Formula 1 detailed its sustainability plan to have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030. The plan covered elements such as reducing carbon emissions related to on-track activities, improving the efficiency of its logistics and travel operations and other elements such as a reduction in plastic waste and increased use of renewable energy for offices and factories. Significantly, there is now further discussion underway on a drive toward eventual adoption of 100% renewable fuel use in the series.

Currently, it is planned to move to a 5% biofuel content in 2021 and then 10% in 2022. With new engine regulations slated for 2026, this would be the logical point to make such a significant shift. According to a statement from F1, a working group has been setup to investigate potential development avenues.

F1 states, “This group will be expanded to include specialists from the OEMs and energy suppliers as well as seeking expertise from independent research groups. Although the carbon footprint of the cars is a very small percentage of our carbon footprint as a sport (0.7%) it is important that the most visual part of our sport is sustainable and can have real world benefits.

“We believe that with over 1 billion of the 1.1 billion vehicles in the world powered by internal combustion engines, we have the potential to lead the way in technologies that reduce automotive carbon emissions globally. We also believe that there is not a single solution to the engine technologies of the future but that a sustainably fuel hybrid engine will be a significant moment for the sport and the automotive sector.”

This poses an interesting question as to what type of sustainable fuel will be targeted. There is the option of a 100% biofuel, but several manufacturers, including VAG, are targeting synthetic fuels. However, Mercedes has stated this year that it does not see these fuels as a viable option and is pursuing pure EV solutions.

How these differing corporate philosophies relate to F1’s decision on which route to take, and an any subsequent impact on manufacturer involvement, will be interesting to watch. There is, however, a considerable undercurrent in automotive engineering, distinct from the political posturing, that acknowledges IC engines will have an important role to play in global mobility for years to come and the fact remains that currently, no other IC engine technology can best F1 for efficiency.

Further into the future, there is a mooted ban on wind tunnels, which are not only fearsomely expensive to run, but also consume alarming amounts of energy. It is rumored that the 2026 regulations and onwards will likely feature a mechanism whereby tunnel used is scaled down year on year, with their final elimination in 2030.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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