Formula One has announced plans to re-invent itself as a sport that is playing its part in combating the environmental emergency that humanity faces.
It’s a bold move by the sport’s owners Liberty Media to be taking a leadership role in creating a greener future. In the aftermath of the controversy triggered by the current Formula One world champion’s recent pronouncements on being a responsible environmentalist, the timing is exquisite.
Lewis Hamilton, a passionate advocate for the vegan diet, is personally committed to reducing his own carbon footprint. How can someone who travels the world to drive fast cars around in circles for fun possibly lecture us all on the world’s ecological crisis? Well now perhaps he has a little more ammunition with which to answer his critics’ cry of “hypocrisy”.
Hamilton was supported by the four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel but opposed by the two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso. Take your pick.
Will Lewis Hamilton now be viewed as less of a hypocrite?
Chase Carey, chairman and chief executive of F1 affirmed that during the course of its 70-year history the sport had been proud technological innovators and “positively contributed to society and helped to combat carbon emissions”.
“From ground-breaking aerodynamics to improved brake designs, the progress led by F1 teams has benefited hundreds of millions of cars on the road today,” said Carey.
“Few people know that the current F1 hybrid power unit is the most efficient in the world, delivering more power using less fuel, and hence CO2, than any other car.”
Outlining a bold strategy Carey said that he believed the sport “can continue to be a leader for the auto industry and work with the energy and automotive sector to deliver the world’s first net-zero carbon hybrid internal combustion engine that hugely reduces carbon emissions around the world.”
Liberty’s strategy to reduced its current pollution level from today’s 256,000 CO2 tonnes to zero in just eleven years is based on:
- developing “sustainable fuel” possibly from cooking oil and crops, working with major fuel companies such as Shell and BP;
- initiatives to improve “travel efficiency” as the Formula One roadshow flies to 21 countries during the season, with all of its attendant extremely heavy luggage;
- programmes to offset unavoidable emissions;
- ensuring that all venues, facilities and factories are based on 100 per cent renewable electricity; and
- doing away with all non-recyclable materials.
The sport plans to offset emissions by replanting trees as well as developing new technologies to capture carbon from the atmosphere. The sport does, after all, have access to top-notch engineering know-how.
F1 to promote healthier food options – now a vegan sport?
Liberty is also committed to offering “healthier food options”. Is it too early to begin to talk about a “vegan sport”? Perhaps this is stretching things a bit too far.
F1 is undoubtedly a very expensive luxury full of conspicuous consumption. Just look at the circus surrounding Formula One in Grand Prix week in say Abu Dhabi or Monaco. So any conscious environmental responsibility by the sport’s organisers is to be welcomed.
Lewis Hamilton said that he has been wrestling with difficult feelings around the issue of perceived hypocrisy. It was not easy, he said, and he extolled the virtues of talking about the issues. He has been at the forefront of working with Mercedes to replace all leather interiors. “You could easily use faux leather and faux suede and nobody would know the difference — and that would make a big, big difference to the world,” he said.
Mercedes is, however, already fully on board with the general trend. The company says that it has been powering their two F1 factories in the UK entirely by renewable energy since early October. Through a combination of reducing CO2 emissions and off-setting, it claims to be on target to have net-zero carbon emissions by the end of 2020.