As a F1 fan passionate about preventing the climate crisis, there seemed reason to be optimistic in November 2019 when Formula 1 announced its plan to be carbon neutral by 2030. Ever since the sport was sold by dictator Bernie Ecclestone the new owners Liberty Media appeared to actually be aware of global issues and there was no indication that there would be a failure to reach the 2030 target. However, this was the peak of my optimism, as even when on 5th October 2021, F1 announced the new 100% sustainable fuel that was to be used from 2030.
How is this announcement not a positive step, I hear you cry? After all, they are turning their words into actions aren’t they? Well, unfortunately, this is all part of the illusion. The major problem is quite simply that it's not the fuel that needs changing: the actual engines are the least of the environmental concerns within Formula 1 at the moment. The current engines are extremely efficient, even possibly more than electric cars depending on where the energy is produced as Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe highlighted in 2016 when he stated that " A Formula One car is massively more efficient than an electric car that is charged from a power plant powered by Hydrocarbons". However, in a recent ‘sustainability strategy’ report published by Formula 1 themselves, it was revealed that the annual carbon emissions from the cars themselves accounts for a tiny 0.8% of all carbon emissions in the sport and the true horror is clear that little is being done to tackle the other 99.2% of emissions.
The real problem was revealed in that same report which appallingly exposed details of the 72% of carbon emissions caused by 'logistics & personal travel', revealing the urgent need for priority focus to be placed on reducing these emissions. The only changes that have been announced in relation to this so far? New races in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, increasing the total travel distance between all races to 116,000 kilometres for each team, a figure that doesn't even include travel home and to team headquarters.
These are simple, publicly-available statistics that tell the real story of Formula 1’s attempt to greenwash their lack of action on taking responsibility for their contribution to climate change. It all works out nicely for the owners: they can tick off 'sustainable' and 'reduced carbon emissions' and look like woke environmentalist kings of sport, whilst continuing to make millions from deals with rich oil countries. These capitalist ideas are all Formula 1 was ever about. Lewis Hamilton exposed the heart of F1 perfectly at the beginning of the 2020 season with the quip "Cash is King". It’s yet another depressing example of failed environmentalism. Formula 1 must once and for all be called out and held accountable for their shameful, flagrant greenwashing.