F1 champions Mercedes enter carbon-neutrality race

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team in action during the during the qualifying session of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore, 21 September 2019 [Photo: . EPA-EFE/WALLACE WOON]

Formula One championship-winning team Mercedes has announced this week that it aims to become carbon-neutral by the end of 2020, as the glitzy motorsport continues its drive to go green.

The German racing outfit hopes to underpin its sustainability quest by ramping up the use of renewable energy at its two UK bases – where parts are made, race data is crunched and wind tunnel testing carried out – and changing its logistics.

Single-use plastics are set to be scrapped from catering services and the team’s organisers will also adapt travel schedules so that personnel and drivers stay in hotels that have strong green credentials.

“We have taken the challenge on in trying to be net carbon-zero in 2020,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “By this summer, we will be receiving all of our energy from renewable sources, which is something that we are very proud of.”

Formula One travels to more than 20 race destinations around the world every year – although that number is now at risk because of the coronavirus outbreak – and travel emissions are set to be neutralised by gold standard offsetting projects.

That means more investments in certified reforestation and clean energy installations that have a proven track record of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Teams also want facilities at racetracks to reflect their new needs.

Mercedes produced 20,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2018 and aims to halve that figure to just 10,000 by the end of 2022.

Formula One joins UN climate sport pact

Globe-trotting motor racing series Formula One signed up to a United Nations climate pact on Wednesday (22 January), as the long-running sport’s quest to go green and refresh its image moves up a gear.

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton sold his private jet and recently adopted a vegetarian diet. The British racer said he has “started offsetting flights, and I’ve started to drive both plug-in hybrids and all-electric Mercedes vehicles”.

Although F1 is synonymous with large and loud engines, the motorsport actually boasts some of the most efficient propulsion units ever engineered. The thermal efficiency has reached around 50%, while road cars average about 25%.

That is a result of advancements in engine technology, energy-recovery systems and cleaner fuels.

The sport as a whole has targeted carbon-neutrality by 2030 and for all its teams to reach a sustainable level by 2025. 

Betting big on green initiatives is also an exercise in self-preservation for the sport, as rival racing series Formula E – which involves all-electric cars – has stolen a march on the 60-year-old sport, by upping fan involvement and bringing in ex-F1 drivers.

One of those, Brazilian Felipe Massa – who was briefly world champion in 2008 before Hamilton beat him by just one point – recently called F1 “boring” and warned the sport could be at threat because of petrol and diesel car bans in different countries.

“It creates problems for F1 – they need to solve this, otherwise they will be in trouble,” Massa said. “They could soon be in a tricky situation.”

Whether bans would have any impact on F1 remains to be seen – countries like the UK have announced plans to phase out new car sales, rather than cars already on the road – and the revenues generated by the sport for local economies will surely go in F1’s favour.

The first F1 race of the season will get underway in Australia on 15 March, while the FE series already kicked off in November, in Saudi Arabia.

E-racers electrify Berlin's old airport

Formula One’s electric cousin came to Berlin’s defunct Tempelhof Airport on Saturday (25 May), in the latest round of a rapidly advancing sport. Formula E’s fortunes have progressed hand-in-hand with those of electric vehicles in general.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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