Can Formula 1 be compatible with the demands of sustainable development?

18/11/2012 , Stephania Chatzichristofi

From season 2013, Formula 1 will be greener. The World motor sport Council has decided to make this sport less polluting thanks to new standards concerning particularly the engines.

The ecological revolution will also affect Formula 1 .At least it is hoped so from the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) that has announced that engines will be changed from 2013.

The first signs of change appeared in 2006 when Max Mosely, then head of F1′s governing body, spoke of a “green overhaul” for the sport. So far there are no signs of anything as comprehensive as an “overhaul,” but steps are slowly being taken toward that direction. For example, in 2010 the Formula 1 Teams Association announced an externally audited carbon reduction program that aims to cut emissions by up to 14 percent over three years.

Last year we have noticed also the return of kinetic-energy recovery systems or KERS, which recycle energy generated by braking, and there are starting in 2013 — an extremely quick turnaround in auto-manufacturing terms. These are expected to deliver a 35 percent reduction in fuel consumption.

Competitive motor sports can accelerate development of greener technologies, evident in F1′s adoption of KERS. But there appears to be a reluctance to really push the green agenda for fear of alienating the hardcore petrol heads. Jonathan Neale, McLaren managing director, says, “I don’t think we do a good job of telling people about our sustainability initiatives, because it doesn’t make great headlines.”

Changing engine design is extremely costly and no one wants to hedge bets on a technology that could quickly become irrelevant. Formula 1 is closely  linked to the consumer automotive industry, and as such is influenced by the market forces that operate there: If people aren’t prepared to spend more on an electric car, and if the government isn’t going to install charging stations everywhere, then why would companies focus all their energies on creating electric cars??

Moreover, let’s not forget that Formula 1 is an entertainment business that relies on big audiences paying to be thrilled by racing. Chris Aylett, CEO of the Motorsport Industry Association, says, “These organizations cannot move too far away from the market that they’re trying to entertain. If they get the audiences, they can draw funding from sponsors to invest in new technology.”

Formula 1 is fundamentally about eking out the best performance within the restrictions imposed by both physics and the rules. If the engineering geniuses at Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Lotus, etc. put their heads together and got serious about sustainability, who knows how quickly sustainable vehicle engineering could
advance?

It’s not going to be easy, but embracing sustainability could generate additional sponsorship revenue from brands that have traditionally shied away from motor sports, and make a real difference to the environment!!!

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