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Formula 1 and sustainability: We need to have this discussion

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Formula 1 has been around since 1950 and although some things have remained the same, new concerns have been brought up throughout the years. More recently, the environmental impact of the category has been a huge topic and that’s why we need to discuss F1 and sustainability.

German driver and four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel was and still is one of the loudest voices on the matter. While still racing, he asked for the collaboration of fans on the racetracks and called out F1 saying they needed to do more for the environment. He even admitted the climate crisis made him question if racing in F1 was the right thing to do.  

Later on, after a record 24-race calendar was announced for the 2023 season, Vettel also said F1 and other big organisations needed independent bodies monitoring what was being done, so they could be held accountable (as they should!) in case the standards they set weren’t achieved. Even though the German driver retired after the 2022 season, his ideas, inquiries, and will to make the sport more sustainable need to be carried on. 

Travelling around the world

In 2019, a report showed that 256k tons of CO2 had been emitted by the championship during that season. In the same year, Formula 1 announced their plan to be Net Zero Carbon by 2030. To achieve that, they’ve hired sustainability experts and have made it clear that the collaboration of everyone involved in the sport is crucial.

In 2022, they were already able to reduce their carbon footprint, according to the 2023 impact report: 223.031 tonnes of CO2 were emitted, with 49% being due to logistics and 29% business travel, similar to what happened in 2019.

As we can see, logistics play a huge part in CO2 emissions. The calendar, which dictates how often and how much travel it’s gonna be, is decided based on the offers from promoters, environmental reasons (they need to avoid extreme temperatures, heavy rain, tornadoes…), and even cultural aspects.

For commercial reasons, promoters also ask F1 not to put races that are near each other geographically, too close on the calendar, which is something that could be reviewed, given that a change in that scenario could reduce traveling long distances unnecessarily.  

A regionalisation of the calendar is already being planned and this year they were already able to make some alterations. Japan was moved to April, Azerbaijan is now in September and Qatar is back-to-back with Abu Dhabi, creating a better flow of races in some regions and reducing long-distance travel. However, even current world champion Max Verstappen has questioned the way the calendar is still arranged.  

According to Liberty Media’s CEO, Greg Maffei, in an interview on the “James Allen on F1” podcast, although the calendar could go up to 25 races per year, 24 is the maximum they’re doing (and it’s still a lot).

Traveling is heavy work and it includes personnel, teams’ infrastructures, media teams and equipment, pieces of the car and the car itself. People usually travel by planes, cars or trains, depending on the distance. Freight is transported either through the air, land or sea, depending on what it is and how quickly it needs to get somewhere. 

In the past years, adjustments have been made to make transportation around the world more sustainable. Powered by DHL, F1’s official logistics partner, trucks are now equipped with a GPS that monitors fuel consumption, looking for more efficient routes and using HVO100 (hydrotreated vegetable oil), a biofuel created from non-fossil fuel sources, which has reduced carbon emissions by 83% during the European leg of the 2022 season.

However, there’s still a challenge to that, which is that not many gas stations across Europe have the right type of biofuel available, so it isn’t possible to change all the fleets. In addition to that, cargo planes have also shifted from Boeings 747 to Boeings 777, 18% more efficient regarding fuel. 

In the racetracks, at the office and at the factory

During an actual F1 weekend, they’re cutting back on single-use plastic, promoting recycling, the use of reusable bottles, and providing water stations inside the paddock, available at some circuits and teams. However, it isn’t uncommon to see a lot of plastic bottles still being used. Alongside that, the use of public transportation and greener options by fans to get to the races are also encouraged. 

The circuits and racetracks are also contributing to making the sport more sustainable. Over 75% of promoters powered aspects of their events using renewable energy sources in 2023, compared to 50% in 2022.

One example is The 2023 Austrian GP, which piloted a new low-carbon system, using a renewably powered centralised system, which not only reduced the carbon footprint but also looked to reduce logistics requirements in the future. A biofuel (HVO) and 600m² of solar panels were used, diminishing carbon emissions by 90% in the pit, paddock and broadcast compound. 

F1 offices are also using 100% renewable energy, which led to the company gaining FIA’s Three-Star Environmental Accreditation in 2023, the highest level of environmental sustainability recognition from the sport’s governing body. All ten F1 teams also have the accreditation, as well as some circuits, including events in Italy, Spain, Belgium, Austria, and the UAE.    

Pirelli, F1’s tire supplier, also has FIA’s Three-Star Accreditation and aims to be Net Zero by 2040, planning to have Operations powered by 100% renewable energy by next year. In 2022, they had the first tire to be certified FSC (Forest Stewardship Council): a certification ensuring the traceability of materials from forests throughout the supply chain, guaranteeing that the natural components for the tires are managed in a way that preserves their biological diversity, benefits the lives of local communities and promote their economic sustainability. Later on, F1’s tyres also received the FSC certification. 

The car

Even though the car’s fuel represents less than 1% of the carbon footprint, they’re still looking for ways to make it more sustainable. In 2014, the hybrid engine was introduced and in 2022 the E10 fuel started to be used, a mixture of 90% fuel and 10% renewable ethanol. For 2026, the cars will keep on using V6 turbo engines, with adjustments to make them more sustainable, but they’ll also race using a fuel that’s 100% sustainable. According to F1, that fuel will be available for use on road cars in the future, due to its “drop-in” technology. 

However, we still need to question when that future will become present and how affordable and easy the conversion for that type of biofuel will be for road cars and trucks all around the world. If biofuels still aren’t all that accessible in Europe, a single continent, one must wonder what’s it gonna take to make it easily available for everyone who owns a combustion vehicle. 

Aside from that, it’s nice to note that Formula 2 and Formula 3 cars are also on the sustainability path: starting in 2023, they’re using 55% sustainable fuel and planning to go 100% in 2027.

Looking at the future

Even though it’s possible to see the changes in and by Formula 1 to make it more sustainable, there’s still a long road to be run. Some aspects of it such as the length and alignment of the calendar and the amount and ways of traveling need to be rethought, not only to make the category greener but also to set an example for other sports and future generations. 


The article above was edited by Fernanda Miki Tsukase.

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Olivia Nogueira

Casper Libero '26

Brazilian journalism student who loves to talk about music, books, TV shows and Formula One.