George Russell, Williams, Red Bull Ring, 2019

Carbon emissions from F1 races is “nothing” compared to flights

2019 F1 season

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George Russell says F1 can’t ignore the need to reduce emissions but the races themselves aren’t the biggest part of the problem.

Flights to Formula 1 events produce significantly greater emissions and consume more fuel than the races themselves create, the Williams driver pointed out.

“We use [around] 100 kilos in the race,” said Russell during the Mexican Grand Prix weekend. “So that’s 2,000 kilos across all the teams. Worst case, about 20,000 litres of fuel.

“For a plane they consume 200,000 litres a flight for a long flight like this, maybe. So in the scheme of things, it’s nothing.

“Everyone says how bad Formula 1 is but in the scheme of life, it’s obviously not great, but the actual racing side of things is not the worst part of it.”

As well as the drivers, each race weekend involved transporting thousands of staff and huge quantities of cargo for the teams as well as the championship organisers and broadcasters.

“Everybody has to get here,” said Russell. “All of the freight. I guess this is where it’s not very efficient.

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“I saw recently that a jumbo jet can hold 230,000 litres of fuel. They must use this on a long-haul flights. A flight from New York to Sydney, that’s just one flight. That would end up going [on] all the time. Planes are flying always. There are bigger issues in the world but it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it.”

In Mexico F1 drivers were shown plans for a major new sustainability drive by the sport, which is due to be revealed to the public later this week. Lewis Hamilton is among those who has urged the sport to take action, and said he is pleased owners Liberty Media have shown willingness to do so.

Russell said the sport must consider all the ways it can reduce its impact on the environment.

“Obviously, we’re not the most economical sport, let’s say. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything about it. You can always improve.

“A single thing like plastic bottles: If we all agreed that there’s no plastic bottles or no plastic allowed in the paddock that can go a long way.”

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2019 F1 season

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 42 comments on “Carbon emissions from F1 races is “nothing” compared to flights”

    1. So many teams are based in the UK, I wonder if they “carpool” to flyaway races? That would help the environment and might save money to charter a cargo B747 and bring all the teams gear around just like how drivers share a private jet.

      1. If I remember correctly DHL is sole logistics partner for all F1 teams. Its possible that all the teams are sharing flights to transport their cars between races out of continental Europe(where they for most part are using roads to get between venues). This problem is going to get worse as F1 expands to new markets and the destinations are further from each other. Its a travelling salesman problem that FOM needs to solve to find optimum solution to wastage of fuel.

        1. Yes, the freight is handled by F1 (liberty) from 2 points in Europe (London and Italy) centrally for all flyaway races. For the European events there is a whole fleet of trucks that travels between events.

    2. The emissions discussion will always be a losing battle because detractors focus on the fact that these are IC engines racing and have emissions. The racing emissions are such a minor part of the sport it’s unbelievable. The flights and trucking are a valid concern, as are production of the tyres I expect, and one shouldn’t argue with them being discussed. But the fan’s footprint is probably less than that of the Tour de France, or a cumulative fan footprint for La Liga, the Premier League or any major football championship (also insert aussie rules, or any other national sport that people travel to enjoy).

      F1 gets the microscope because it is fossil fueled racing, but it’s not the worst polluter in sport by any means.

      Just realised this was a bit of a rant – sorry

      1. @ahxshades Spot on, and everything true.

      2. What you must realise @jerejj, is, never let facts get in the way of a good story.

        1. If stories take away from the truth to benefit a few, stories should be banned from human existence.

          1. Stories are human existance

    3. I couldn’t agree more with him. For starters, The race calendar could and should be more reasonably formed logistically. Here’s my alternative race calendar with this aspect more in mind using 2020 dates, the 2020 venues, i.e., Miami not taken into account nor any other potential future addition:

      Australia March 15 (or 22)
      Bahrain March 29
      Vietnam April 12
      China April 19
      Spain (or France) May 3
      France (or Spain) May 10
      Monaco May 24
      Canada June 7
      Britain June 21
      Austria (or Netherlands) July 5
      Netherlands (or Austria) July 12
      Hungary July 26
      Belgium August 23
      Italy August 30
      Japan (or Azerbaijan) September 13
      Singapore (or Russia) September 20
      Azerbaijan (or Japan) October 4
      Russia (or Singapore) October 11
      USA (COTA) October 25
      Mexico November 1
      Brazil November 15
      Abu Dhabi (UAE) November 29

      1. As for the tyres: Give me one valid reason why a set of four-tyres, two front, and two back-ones, wouldn’t/couldn’t be re-usable for either a future GP-weekend or some other running, testing, a demo run whatever? A waste of both time and money, as well as, maybe energy to construct tyres only for them to never be used for their purpose, in the end, i.e., hard work for nothing. What’s the point of making something without then using it for its intended purpose? This is why I’ve thought that maybe reducing the number of sets available per driver for each GP-weekend wouldn’t be a bad idea after all. For example, ten instead of the current thirteen would suffice 99% of the time. Or Keep the overall number the same, but instead give each driver one more set to use for each practice-session, i.e., three instead of the current two, so that there’d be fewer fresh/unused sets left to use for the remainder of the weekend in question. There would be zero need for these thoughts in the first place, though, if they’d store the ‘unused’ leftover sets for future-usage, which shouldn’t be an impossibility in the first place.

        1. You know replying to your own post is the first sign of madness @jerejj been there, done that.

          1. @ahxshades No, it was solely to avoid the post getting extremely long, like Walter Koster’s questions, LOL. I could’ve put them all together, but again, I didn’t want the post to be longer than needed, so did them separately.

          2. Madness (lunacy) comes in three stages.
            – Talking to yourself.
            – Arguing with yourself
            – Loosing those arguments.
            Ain’t even close, but keep working on it.

            1. Talking to yourself is healthy, not madness.

        2. (@jerejj) I agree with most points being raised but tyres have an expiring date. Like road tyres they degrade over time. It’s okay to buy new tyres that were manufactured within the last year in your road car but on a F1 car, with the speeds they achieve, an old tyre could be fatal. Think of that famous Alex Wurz crash at Paul Ricard when they fitted the tyre the wrong way (they are directional tyres).

          Being that tyres are the most sensitive thing in the entire car, and it’s essential.for safety, they have to do it this way unless they find a way to.make them differently, which would be a major effort in any case, and also very costly and probably impossible.

          1. @fer-no65 Tyres having an expiration date like foods? Not to my knowledge, LOL. How could they degrade and become unusable if they just were kept ‘still’ in storage without them being used physically on track or on the road within a given time-frame? I’ve, of course, known all my life that foods have a given time-frame within which eating away is recommendable either before or on the given date, but have never believed tyres would or could have a similar time-frame limit if that indeed is true.

            1. Rubber degradation on tires does happen. They become less sticky. Even road cars. In the crash that killed Paul Walker the 9 year old tires likely contributed to the driver losing control of the car

            2. (@jerejj) rubber and plastic suffer over time. Specially if not being used. Hoses, tyres, everything. Even in road cars. A F1 tyre sitting in a warehouse for months isn’t a great idea if you’re going to go 320 kph…

            3. Tyres do have an expiration date @jerejj, just as Terry and @fer-no65 mention. Also, especially with these racing tyres, once they’re fitted to a rim, they cannot be taken off and put on a rim again for safety reasons.

              I get your idea of using tyres for more events (that was what Michelin advocated) but it would have te be completely different than what we have now. Maybe using 2 compounds but using them several events in a row? Or using one tyre set for multiple races. Or using a set of tyres for the race but then deciding whether use them for practice (meaning less usefull data) or even qualifying (so you then have a completly fresh set for the race).
              Or even using only a given amount of sets per car per year.

              In all those cases the tyres have to be shipped mounted on the rims. So it would mean relatively MORE logistics (volume), but less waste.

    4. So hold 22 races at Silverstone and share them with the world through the magic of the internets :-)
      They could dress the track differently each weekend for variety.

      1. For a bit of variation, they could build a huge car park outside of Silverstone and recreate all the modern tracks on there – you could fly to the proper tracks and use the car park to recreate the rest.

        1. or just turn the whole championship into a sim racing series. I think we’ll be there before too long!

      2. I think you’re on to something…

        Modern GP circuit
        “Bridge” GP circuit
        National circuit
        Stowe circuit
        Rally cross circuit!

        Then all in reverse, like “Burn Out” :)

    5. I keep proposing my sailing ship fleet to move F1 cargo around the world. F1 keeps ignoring me. #AddictedToJetFuel

    6. I wonder how much of that air freight cargo could be duplicated and stored on each continent that the teams travel to? Thinking of stuff like air guns, hospitality features, gas bottles…

      1. I thought I heard that for non-performance items like the above that there are around 5 sets for each team and that they are moved between races by sea to avoid them being moved by air. Not consecutive ones obviously as sea is much slower than air.

        A lot of the transportation of equipment will probably be heavily optimised already as DHL won’t want to spend any more money than they have to. By extension the environmental impact will be as low as possible based on currently available technology.

        Going back to the original point, I am sure that I read a report (maybe 10 years ago) that suggested that the actual driving of the F1 cars is <1% of the complete carbon footprint. If you want to make a proper dent in the overall figure you need to limit wind tunnel and CFD use as they are hugely energy intensive and limit flyaway races. However whilst the first point here is being addressed (and has been for a while), the second will be an issue for a while yet.

        1. Yeah, all not that critical stuff is moved by ship @chimaera2003, @knewman. The teams have several sets of them (two or three) that cycle out to consequent “flyaway” races. They have to be shipped about 6 weeks up front, so these sets are more or less constantly travelling by ship to and from races.

          Do remember that teams have to check everything after/before each race weekend, so keeping it in a local warehouse would not be that easy. Also, the sheer investment and storage cost to keep everythign local makes it most likely a no go.

          1. nobody said green was cheap. if they really want to do it, not just a PR stunt, we’ll see it in the accounting books.

    7. Many really don’t really give meaning to what they learn at school. They just go with fashion of moment, others cave to endless repetition. Some badly measured temperatures. Evidence? Scientific Method? haha! we just repeat millions of times and people will start to believe.

      Russel, and others don’t understand that F1 is an icon of fossil fuels, so it must be destroyed because destroying icons is what Marxists do to control thinking and language. For now some million and million euros to political campaigns and some leftists ONGs can stem the attack. Paying protection money.

      Politics is the most extremist religion, it is the only religion that claims it can control climate…

      1. I don’t think you know the meaning of the word marxist…

        1. Add ‘evidence’ and ‘scientific method’ to that list, frood19. I thought unlike your average tabloid, Racefans would be devoid of boomers and trolls screaming to the void in the comment sections, but I guess not.

          1. “I don’t think you know the meaning of the word marxist…”

            Maybe you should read Karl Marx, Giovanni Gentile, Bottai, Hegel …
            Marxism in its practical form is the hate against Western Civilization Modernity that is distribution of power, it defends a return to a primitivist form of power, that is why Marxism does not have checks and balances, or power limits. It is a tool for the elite to control people against the travle to modernity which put more power to the individual .
            The “green” mantra implies sin and guilt the tools to control, then we will have induced scarcity with famine, disease is precisely the elite need to assert control from the “ignorant” masses.

            A beach full of trash have more or less biodiversity than a clean one?
            Does plastic trash make possible for many organisms to get home to breed or not?

            Is your green ideology an aesthetic movement?

            “Add ‘evidence’ and ‘scientific method’ to that list, frood19”
            Explain to me the change of temperature between year 1600 and year 1800? Or the weather catastrophes ?
            And how today we have heavy replication problems that exist in more exact sciences and that in much less complex problem than whole earth climate.
            Do you know about the mess that is today physics with multiverses making the science a fake science since evidence is impossible?
            Scientific method is a tool that empower us to see trough propaganda. But due to heavy propaganda people don’t use it to doubt that is impossible to attribute decimal degrees to anything. Don’t get me started even if temperature in F or C is the correct thing to measure energy in the system.
            We don’t have knowledge for that.

    8. flights are exactly what i thought about. less traveling like going from Monaco to Azerbaijan then Canada then BACK to france? why? im not an expert in weather and im sure that doesnt even matter but what does is money. money talks but i think they should do it by continent. like begin in Australia, then the asian leg, then middle east & europe, to the americas and finish in brazil. seems simple to me.

      1. @Shooker88 Canada has to be part of the European-phase for climatic reasons, but Azerbaijan could be paired with, for example, Hungary instead, or even better with Russia in September.

    9. If F1 could come up with a way of replacing rubber tyres with something else. Something that does not overheat and blister. And something better for the environment. Imagine how that would transform the whole car industry. There are already companies working on airless tyres and such. But F1 could be a cool place to test it and accelerate the development (like happened with turbos for example).

      Of course this is very naive of me. We will probably end up with a spec series in 10 years time. They will increase the rim size to 20 inches and call it a day.

      1. Isn’t that more or less the direction Michelin proposed @vjanik? Having all weather tyres, long durability.

        And off course their research into “tyres” that are built up completely different.

    10. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the likes of Newey, and all the clever engineers in F1 set out to design and build custom made transport ships using all their knowledge.
      They could use clever flow engineering to optimze hulls, use sails, energy recovery etc to minimize fuel useage (or go hyrdrogen with the solar panels making it right out of sea water!), use active hydrodynamics etc.

      They could be moored in ports emblazoning the F1 logo, and showboating what this marvel of engineering can do. That would be a solid addition to the race weekend if you could then go on a tour if you have a ticket!

      Maybe they could also include a passenger compartment for people who want to do a F1 “be part of it” tour! With all of that, why not sign up one of those horribly polluting cruise ship operators as sponsors for it. And they could then use cruise ships derived off of the F1 marvels to finally cut their own emissions.

      Ok, going off on a bit of a tangent there, but F1 is awesome engineering!

    11. They should haul their stuff with sail ships. Can’t get more green than that…

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