F1 News

Time is running out for 2030: F1, experiment now!

Time is running out for 2030: F1, experiment now!

23-09-2022 12:26


The 2023 F1 calendar has been announced and the upcoming championship's travel schedule, with a record number of races, looks like chaos once again this year. The question is whether this travel schedule is compatible with F1's plans to drastically reduce the sport's CO2 emissions.

F1 will criss-cross the world in 2023

The visualisation of next year's F1 itinerary on the international GPBlog Instagram page evoked puzzled reactions. The chaos seen on the world map raised legitimate questions as to whether there isn't a better way for the sport to travel the world. It is also striking for F1 fans to see Formula 1 travelling completely around the African continent. But the main question to be asked is how Formula 1 plans to combine this calendar with the F1 sustainability strategy. This plan bears the title: Countdown to Zero. Of which the goal is to be carbon neutral as a sport by 2030.

We first put next year's distances into perspective. The map below shows F1's travel movements, and the following slides also show the distances F1 will travel from circuit to circuit (pit lane to pit lane as the crow flies). In total, the sport will travel a whopping 133,735 kilometres next year, not counting trips back to the factory or home. The longest trip taken by F1 is from Las Vegas to the season finale in Abu Dhabi and is a journey of 13,209 kilometres. The length of this trip is no exception, as the trip from Qatar to the United States, which takes place a few weeks earlier, is also over 13,000 kilometres. As many as five times F1 will make a journey of more than 10,000 kilometres.

Dit bericht op Instagram bekijken

Een bericht gedeeld door GPblog.com Nederland (@gpblog_nl)

F1 seems to be criss-crossing the globe. Even mid-season, when the European races take place and distances are a lot shorter, Formula 1 travels across the continent in a cumbersome manner. Look at the races of Britain, Hungary and Belgium following each other in this order. Only four times less than a thousand kilometres are covered in the 24-race F1 season. The shortest distance is between the GP of Belgium and the GP of the Netherlands, but since the summer break falls between them next year, it is quite conceivable that the teams will bring a lot of equipment to headquarters first before it is transported back to the Netherlands.

F1 can get most 'CO2 gain' from calendar

The reason for the surprise about the travel schedule and the reason why it is necessary to pay attention to it is that Formula 1's travel leaves the biggest imprint on the sport's emissions. F1's sustainability report used data from 2018; a 21-race season. In that season, a whopping 45 per cent of the total 256,551 tonnes of CO2 emissions came from F1 logistics. This percentage includes only the supplies needed by the teams and Formula 1 to drive/organise the races and the paddock facilities. The travelling business, journalistic and recreational part has not yet been included. That group also accounts for 27.7 per cent of emissions.

It therefore seems that reducing the distances between races is where there is the most to gain in terms of reducing CO2 emissions. After all, 72.7 per cent of Formula 1's total emissions are related to its itinerant nature. In this regard, it should be clear that travelling is inherent to the sport, but Formula 1 could address this more intelligently. While the sport does openly advocate a transition to more renewable fuel and sustainable, electric engines, F1 does not seem to have embarked on a much more sustainable course with the announcement of this 2023 calendar compared to the current season's itinerary. This while emissions from the F1 cars' power sources contributed only 0.7 per cent to F1's total CO2 emissions in 2018.

It was therefore expected, in view of the 2030 targets, that the F1 organisation would come up with an improved plan. With seven seasons to go after 2023, there is a particular need to win on CO2 emissions by 2030. It was actually necessary for F1 to start experimenting with the calendar last year. For now, the only experiment we have seen is the double races; two races organised on two weekends in a row at the same circuit, as happened in Austria. The main reasons for this were the corona restrictions in place worldwide. In 2022, we did not see this construction again.

Time is running out: F1, experiment now!

Recommending what then needs to be improved about the calendar only proves difficult. It has to be said with this story that shaping a global calendar has to be done very carefully, because all the variables that could cause an event not to go ahead have to be estimated correctly. With a hypothetical scenario where Formula 1 would move from any Grand Prix from the left of the map to the right during the year (the shortest travel distances), firstly, temperatures and the ability to race there must be taken into account. A season start on the American continents could cause problems with the Canadian Grand Prix, as it could be too cold for a race there in spring. In Europe, too, it can be too cold or rainy in spring and autumn. In the Middle East, it is again too hot in summer and in Asia, rainy seasons have to be taken into account.

Formula 1 also has to take into account cultural phenomena and national holidays of the places and countries where racing will take place; think of the month of Ramadan, for example. So there are numerous issues that make it practically impossible for Formula 1 to simply choose the shortest routes over the season. Last but not least, the contracts in place with certain circuits also play a role; such as the contract with Abu Dhabi, in which it has been agreed that the Yas Marina complex will have the right to host the season finale in the coming years.

The calendar presented for 2023 is - however difficult to shape - disappointing. In a technologically pioneering sport like Formula 1, there should be enough brainpower and skill to at least come up with possible solutions and experiment with them. The double race weekends could be incorporated back into the calendar. Another interesting idea is to divide the F1 season into chapters by continent. For example, the US basketball league, the NBA, also regulates travel movements by putting teams from cities that are close together in one league and playing against each other more often than teams that are far apart. Allowing races in certain parts of the world to take place one after the other in a certain period, when it fits well with the climate and social structure, could make the F1 travel schedule more efficient. This would potentially spread a season more throughout the year, but with longer breaks in between for teams and drivers.

With time running out, Formula 1 will really have to experiment as long as Liberty Media wants so many Grands Prix on the calendar. Unless they don't take the message of being CO2 neutral by 2030, the so-called Countdown to Zero, so seriously after all.