Night racing and the environment

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Max Mosley is requiring teams to start using environmentally-friendly technologies on their cars from 2009 in the form of KERS.

Meanwhile Bernie Ecclestone has signed a deal with Singapore to hold a race under floodlights, Malaysia looks set to follow and he’s pressuring Australia to do likewise.

You have to ask yourself if the pair, often thought of as being joined at the hip, share the same vision of the need for F1 to ‘Go Green’?

The organisers of the Singapore Grand Prix are planning to erect 1,485 projecters each putting out 2,000 watts to illuminate the race, consuming 3.18m watts. The power will come from 12 generators, which presumably will have to run on a fossil fuel.

It wouldn’t necessarily be much better if they plugged the lights into the national grid. Singapore has four power stations that produce over 1,000Mw each. Three of these burn natural gas and the other, an oil fired plant, is being converted to natural gas. There are more polluting forms of power generation, but this is not exactly ‘green’.

That said I doubt many other countries could supply this much energy from entirely ‘green’ resources. Would it be possible to hold a ‘green’ night race anywhere?

Perhaps Abu Dhabi could – it will hold its first F1 race next year and is planning to build the world’s largest hydrogen power plant.

It may not need to hold a night race, as it is only two hours ahead of Turkey which holds its race in daylight. But it could choose to simply because it can afford to, and to fit the television schedules as neatly as Ecclestone would like.

More on the Singapore Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “Night racing and the environment”

  1. Hello,

    I think the problem with the Singapore night race power system is not the enviroment, and should be the reliability. 12 twin diesel generator (which actually are 24 generators) plugged forming a power distribution net is very reliable, and very easy to handle from a control position. Everything is in a 3 miles radius which allowed to control every generator, swicht… with an optical wire control system. They also could plug their own private net in two points to the public power system, and use the Singapore system as a supporting power source in case one generator fails in your net.

    I think control of every point of power consum, power generation and power distribution is imperative to the firm which has the lighting contract. I think is a good idea put your energy aside the distribution net.

    And about the enviroment, I think is worse the wasting image than the real damage.

  2. And now, KERS. You have touch on my two favourite disscusion issues (Singapore lighting and KERS).

    I think KERS is the big FIA and FOM lie. As for me, the F1 investigation days are over. Last years F1 only developed systems. They take an existing system and they develop almost to perfection, but nowadays they don’t discover nothing new. Actually is easier see a new component in other categories, as WRC or Lemans than in F1.

    But is even worse. In last years, FIA has banned electronic help, has frozen engines, has expelled one tyre supplier (ending the tyre war), has banned fuel development… next year aerodinanical development will be reduced since only front and rear wings will be allowed. With all the other classic components almost in the limit of development, nowadays temas only can work in the balance of the car.

    Solution for FIA is include in F1 car an existing component (KERS), and tell us that is an innovation. THree ways of development are allowed. Mechanical KERS, which is a flying wheel with a CVT transmission. Electrical KERS, which is a reversible electric engine generating and using electricity (a.k.a. very expensive hybrid Lexus system, reduced and asembled in a F1). And the half mechanical, half electrical KERS.

    With a lame idea (KERS), and a very restrictive regulation (only 80 HP of recovered energy per lap, are allowed), i truly think KERS is not going to solve anything.

    One last thing, the “push to pass” button has been used in Champ Car for several years. The idea is not new, the way to develop it neither.

  3. Football has been played under floodlights around the world for ages. How many other sports are played indoors using energy for lighting, airconditioning, air cooling … Artificial snow is produced so people can ski when mother nature does not exactly provide …

    Why a F1 night race is an issue ?

  4. “Football has been played under floodlights around the world for ages. How many other sports are played indoors using energy for lighting, airconditioning, air cooling … Artificial snow is produced so people can ski when mother nature does not exactly provide …

    Why a F1 night race is an issue ?”

    It’s a good point. But I think the pertinent thing here is the conflicting attitudes the sport is trying to show. As you say, a night race on it’s own wouldn’t neccessarily be an issue. But if you’re trying to heavily publicise the way the sport is embracing green technology and attitudes then it’s only fair to question the night race concept. Why bother with KERS and slashing the fuel burn section of quali only to then waste energy? It’s not joined-up thinking – the left arm and the right arm are doing opposing things to a large degree.

    Football etc. isn’t trying to push it’s green agenda so heavily as F1.

  5. Because a power failure could cause an accident.

    It’s important have a reliable power sytem, and an uniform and non-flicking ligthing. And that’s not trivial. In a circuit inside a stadium is simple, but in a street circuit, everything needs to be perfectly designed.

  6. I am surprised Max hasn’t calculated how much power will be saved by the majority of the TV audience not getting up in the middle of the night and powering up TV, computers, lights, kettles etc. After arguing since the idea first came up that a night race does not make sense environmentally I have just realised that maybe it does.

    I still think that it is insanely stupid on safety grounds and should not even be considered as a possibility. I have been involved in a lot of safety issues through work etc including risk assessment. To me the question that should always be asked is ‘If there is an accident what changes will you make?.

    If there is an accident caused by lighting failure, or some other reason which can be attributed to the race being held at night what action will the FIA take? The answer is they will ban night racing. So if you are going to ban it after the accident why not ban it before it. Hopefully we are not back in the bad old days where problems were not addressed until someone died.

  7. And the big security issue is not the power failure, which is simple, but expensive, to solve.

    In case of wet race, i think the light reflected in the car water sprays would made the driving condition almost impossible. If in the middle of the race rain comes into play, probably they should stop the race.

  8. Ollie at BlogF1 did a good piece on that.

  9. And there would be a much more effective way to go green in Formula 1: using alcohol as fuel, like Methanol in the US racing series, or Ethanol, that is widely used in Brazil by common veichles with flexible engines, that accept both gasoline and alcohol, even at the same time, at any rate the driver desires.

    I know it would go against the engine freeze and would mean a significant drop of performance in the first years, but would open a great field for innovation in F1 again, and the new technology developed would be very useful for automotive industry.

    As for the night race, for sure it’s contradictory, especially when we can foresee a trend of night races at the far east to please european audiences…

  10. Well, it’s certain that F1’s cost-cutting desires don’t extend to the tracks.

  11. Football is played under floodlights……

    Football is green energy, apart from the lighting. Formula1 is not green, neither is the lighting. The only way to help reduce the effects, for the carbon conscious, is to have solar panels charge up batteries at each lighting point then for the duration of the race run on batteries, that have a lifespan.

    I love my F1. lets stop being hypocrites Mosley and enjoy.

  12. “milos Says:

    Football has been played under floodlights around the world for ages. How many other sports are played indoors using energy for lighting, airconditioning, air cooling … Artificial snow is produced so people can ski when mother nature does not exactly provide …

    Why a F1 night race is an issue ?”

    And F1 race is a bigger event. The tracks usually are 5 or more kilometers long, and you still have to point the lights from different places to avoid any shadow that could disturb the drivers while driving at a very high speed.

    The light must be more powerful and they need to be for a longer period of time.

    In a time where energy is a world’s problem, it’s quite annoying to hear that a small grey-haired man what a night race in every country that is not uncomfortable for the european fans to watch.

    Also, the sport events that are held at night are much more greener than F1 itself.

  13. “Football is green energy, apart from the lighting.”

    Is it, though? The break down I saw in an issue of F1 Racing a few months ago (can’t remember when, and this may not neccessarily be the most neutral of sources, anyway, but is still interesting) stated that the actual driving of the cars was only a very small percentage of the emissions. The bulk of emissions came from shipping all the cars around the world, and from the large number of fans driving to get to the circuits, which after all have up until now not neccessarily been in the densest-populated areas.

    And this is not something limited to F1 – think of all those football teams jetting around Europe to play in the Champions League. Think of the massive pyramid system of football in Britain alone – how many people are travelling around and across Britain to go watch a match, each Saturday, for pretty much most of the year?

    Yes, the actual game itself may be fairly green, but that’s not the whole story.

  14. The biggest energy use/CO2 production in F1 is wind tunnels. They use more power than everything else put together. And forget Max’s idea of limiting their use. Apart from having to control that use the big problem is that they cannot be switched off and on a few hours later. The amount of energy used to kick start a wind tunnel is huge and the teams have to inform the national grid before they can power one up.

  15. The other thing with the wind tunnels is that a certain amount of energy is wasted every time any device is powered up and down. For instance, a conventional (i.e. not “low-energy”) light bulb uses the same amount of energy to power down and up again as it does to stay lit for 15-20 minutes (depending on the quality of the design). In general, the larger the device, the more energy wasted when powered on or off (though exceptions exist). I would imagine wind tunnels waste huge amounts of electricity when switched off and on because the fans have to slowly stop and then slowly get going again. So switching a wind tunnel off for 8 hours doesn’t save 8 hours of power. I haven’t seen any precise figures for how much energy it would save, but I’d be surprised if the FIA had fully taken it into account before positing its “9-to-5” rule for tunnels.

  16. We should all do our bit as true fans and help compensate for the environmental damage caused by F1 by riding our bikes to work.

  17. when max and bernie decide to ive up their champagne /luxury lifestyle – I count livin as a tax exile in monacao as part of that not to count luxury houses around the world – maybe I would use one of my bikes – but as they like their lifestyles – they can stay in the shed till the summer – double standards and hypocrasy – its about speed thrills – not ecology – ps enjoyed ettin up early – couple of glasses of something australian and early breakfast – plus knowing result before mainstream showing – or news reader lets us know it before itv shows the race – hate that

  18. Let’s just end modern life as we know it. No cars or generation of electrical power whatsoever. As all Utopian ideas go, the goals are laudable but the implementation nearly impossible to effect.

    To cast racing as the arch enemy of all things “green” is patently ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as Bernie’s efforts to force night racing on the host countries in play to help his ratings.

  19. read the article in F1 blog Keith – quite good – and yes as an older motorcyclist – very old – you do get dazzled quite badly in wet conditions by car headlights it can even happen on dipped if incorrectly set – ie tourisits especially – the raindrops can cause a sort of miniature rainbow coloured – effect if looking at strong lights – all causing you to drop your speed – but not knowing how this lighting works – strength/power – will have to see – just hope no one learns the hard way?

  20. Green F1 is an oxymoron.

    The best I think we can hope for is green-ish. But things like night races do nothing to help the F1 cause – especially for Melbourne where the GP is hanging on by a thread as it is.

    Having said that though, I bought my tickets for Singapore on the weekend, so I’ll withhold judgement about the actual race until then.

  21. My concern with Night Races isn’t so much the ‘how’ but the ‘why’. Why does Bernie need to spend so much of other people’s money just to increase his profits? Think about it – the FIA doesn’t provide Singapore with the money to set up the lights, that has to be provided by the local Racing Promoters, who in turn have to find extra revenue through increased sponsorship and higher ticket prices. Bernie has claimed the rights to all the property along the route, so he gets any money from grandstands and shops in those sites, instead of Singapore. And who is going to pick up the cost at the end of the day? The local fans! Thats why the Australians said ‘No’!
    I am also sure that there will be a ‘Night Race’ Premium forced on the TV companies who want to show the race, so there will have to be more advertising breaks during the race.
    This at a time, as has been said before, when the other half of the FIA is forcing the Teams to cut necessary costs (and nobody has mentioned the FIA cutting its running costs at all).
    Also, on this point, the actual costs for going racing have increased recently, everything from the F1 entry fee and Superlicences to what the circuits have to pay for the right to hold an F1 event (as well as any ‘Bernie-isms’ necessary to keep him happy). So in actual fact, the teams are paying more to get onto a racing grid and less to make a racing car! And I don’t think that is in the Spirit of Motor-Racing at all!

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