How F1’s calendar headaches are being addressed for carbon reduction challenge

Thomas Maher
F1 cargo as Safety Cars are shipped.

F1 cargo as Safety Cars are shipped.

F1’s goal of reaching Net Zero Carbon by 2030 is progressing, but calendar regionalisation represents a particularly big challenge to overcome.

F1 is now several years into its push to become ‘Net Carbon Zero’ by 2030, having set off on a new sustainability initiative back in 2019, with the latest change being announced in the run-up to the Spanish Grand Prix.

For the rest of the European leg of the 2023 season, F1 will use 18 new trucks using HVO100 biofuel, a hydrotreated vegetable oil. This will allow for the reduction of carbon emissions by a minimum of 60%, with potential for more as the trucks travel around 10,600 kilometres each as they travel around Europe. No drop-off in performance in terms of load capacity or travel distance potential is expected. The trucks will also use GPS to monitor fuel consumption and ensure the most efficient routes are used.

The confirmation from F1 came shortly after Mercedes made a similar announcement about how their team will travel around Europe this season, with the F1 team using Mercedes Actros trucks using the same biofuel with the same expected drop-off in emissions.

But the main criticism and challenge F1 has faced since the announcement of its sustainability push has been that of the F1 calendar. After all, with 22+ races a year, surely ensuring the grouping of races from individual regions around the globe makes more sense than criss-crossing the world?

For instance, this season saw F1 fly off to Miami last month before flying east across Europe to reach Azerbaijan. After Barcelona, F1 heads to Canada before returning straight back to Austria while, later this year, the race in Qatar is followed by four races in the Americas before returning to the Middle East for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

F1: Calendar rationalisation is a ‘key goal’

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, F1’s Head of Sustainability Ellen Jones was asked about how much calendar rationalisation is needed in order to make more substantial gains towards the caron net zero target.

“When you talk about our carbon footprint, you have three key levers which is how are we going to create these reductions,” she told media, including

“The first is the distance travelled, the second is the mode and the third is the amount which travels, and we have to answer on all three of those. recommends

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“In terms of how you deliver a Formula 1 World Championship, we will obviously be working on each and every aspect of it and there are different answers depending on the different pieces of kit – can it go on a sea freight solution? Can it go in a regional hub? Equally with the calendar itself, we completely understand that rationalisation is a key goal.

“It’s one that Stefano [Domenicali, F1 CEO] has advocated for, and it is also a partnership with our promoters.

“When you have a calendar and a date, it can be a very emotive topic, ‘it’s a holiday, it’s always been that date’, but we need to bring them on that change journey with us so that we can host more sustainable events, reduce our carbon footprint, and embalance all of those variables.”

Paul Fowler: There are clusters starting to happen naturally

Paul Fowler, Head of DHL Motorsports Logistics, was asked about the challenges facing the logistics company given the target of reducing emissions while dealing with an ever-expanding F1 calendar as the sport originally scheduled a 24-race calendar for 2023 before cancellations in China and Emilia-Romagna.

“We look at the whole supply chain, whether that be the air, the sea, and now with road savings,” he said.

“So, over the last five years, we’ve been looking at the way that the equipment is packaged.

“Traditionally, it flew in Boeing 747 aircraft, but we’re moving away from that to a 777 configuration aircraft. There are easy wins and there are transitional wins – the last five years getting the teams to transfer all these packing boxes to enable us to move from point to point as quickly as we do.

“A 777 is about 17% more efficient than a 747. We’re also bunkering down on sustainable aviation fuel and marine fuel. So all three modes we’re looking at and catering and introducing as we go.

“Obviously, there are challenges with the calendar – back-to-backs, triple headers, etc. There are staff challenges, and there are sustainable challenges, but the race has to happen.

“There are a lot of factors that decide the calendar that are outside of our control. So we work as best we can within the environment and the calendar that we get. You can see already with the Middle East presence, the US presence, there are clusters forming naturally, and so we can work within them.

“Sea freight moves between the races, and that can be done as sustainably, because we have time, as possible. Air freight is a little bit more of a challenge, which is why we’ve moved onto the 777s.

“What Ellen said as well –  ‘does it need to come’? They are the questions that teams and every individual have to answer – can it be done from links to the headquarters in the UK or Italy? There are a lot of questions to be asked of the teams as well. It’s a journey. We started the journey and that’s obviously a good thing but we’re certainly not to the finish of that.”

Asked about the figures F1 has already achieved over the past few years, Jones said the most recent figures available suggest the company has already achieved a good step towards its target.

“We have been reducing our carbon footprint – our last carbon footprint was in 2021,” she said.

“That was a 17% reduction based on our 2018 baseline. It’s fantastic, but it is something that you have to make sure were comparable year to year given the fact that we have had consolidated seasons, changes to what [was scheduled]. So we’re currently collecting our 2022 data and look forward to updating on that and where we fit.”