Environmental protesters target Formula 1 demonstration run in Barcelona

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A Formula 1 show run in the heart of Barcelona was greeted by protesters unhappy with their neighbourhood being shut down to promote this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Ahead of this weekend’s event, several Formula 1, F2, F3 and F1 Academy drivers took part in a ‘live roadshow’ demonstration run as part of the F1 Barcelona Fan Festival. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jnr, Alpine reserve Jack Doohan, Catalan F2 racer Pepe Marti and Nerea Marti were among the drivers who participated in the event.

The event was the first of its kind to be held in Barcelona, which has hosted the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya every season since joining the calendar in 1991. The demo run closed down the Passeig de Gracia major road in the Eixample district of the city with several adjacent roads also shut down for Wednesday.

A group of protesters, reportedly numbering around 400, demonstrated against the showrun event. Banners were displayed by objectors with slogans reading ‘Prou Formula Fum! La ciutat no està en venda!’ – ‘Enough Formula Fume! The city is not for sale!’ and ‘Stop contaminacio! Menya cotxes! Mes salut!’ – ‘Stop contamination! Less cars, more health!’.

The Barcelona-based road traffic safety group Prevencion de Accidentes de Trafico (Association for the Prevention of Traffic Accidents), posted a sternly-worded critique of the event.

“We reject the Formula 1 exhibition in the centre of Barcelona, which prioritises a city model based on large events and motor culture over the health and well-being of the residents,” the group said.

“We denounce that this type of mega-event promotes and builds an economic and city model contrary to the well-being of the residents. The city cannot be a stage for motor competitions, with smoke, noise, speed, and thousands of visitors.

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“The World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Barcelona agree on the impact of poor air quality and noise on people’s health, which are the causes of many illnesses we suffer from: asthma, sleep disorders, cardiovascular diseases, premature births, cancer, stroke, diabetes, etc., leading to the premature death of 2,000 people every year. Given this problem, great economic efforts and substantial changes in habits by citizens and the administration are required. It is necessary to impose mobility restrictions, specifically on the vehicles that can circulate in the city. It is inconsistent for the administrations to organise an event promoting Formula 1, sending a contradictory message to the citizens.”

Beyond the environmental concerns, other protesters disapproved of their neighbourhood being effectively closed down so the event could take place. Jordi Elgstrom, representing local community group Eixample Respira, said that some locals objected to the idea of their city centre being closed down for the F1 show run.

“It is incoherent to have a Formula 1 run in the centre of the city of Barcelona due to all the pollution it entails, all the noise it entails, and because it contrasts with the mobility system we want to promote from the Barcelona City Council,” Elgstrom told reporters. “It totally goes against the model of the city we want.”

Formula One Management has been approached for comment.

F1 has set a target of becoming a “net zero” producer of carbon emissions by 2030. Its forthcoming new engine rules, due for introduction in 2026, will significantly increase the use of electrical power, and require combustion engines to use a ‘sustainable’ fuel.

19 de juny de 2024

Protesta contra l'exhibició de la #Fórmula1 a #Barcelona, on més de 200 entitats reclamen que la ciutat no pot seguir sostenint un model que prioritza macroesdeveniments per davant de la vida dels seus veïns i veïnes.

📸Reportatge a https://t.co/MQhMWNkotQ pic.twitter.com/GgS0P0AIYg

— Fotomovimiento (@Fotomovimiento) June 20, 2024

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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13 comments on “Environmental protesters target Formula 1 demonstration run in Barcelona”

  1. F1 has set a target of becoming a “net zero” producer of carbon emissions by 2030. Its forthcoming new engine rules, due for introduction in 2026, will significantly increase the use of electrical power, and require combustion engines to use a ‘sustainable’ fuel.

    All this is irrelevant and any environmental activist could tear it apart in seconds. It’s not what F1 is, it’s what F1 represents. We’ve seen Formula E protested as well. Net-zero talk doesn’t really do anything.

    Motorsport is a discretionary activity, for the most wealthy (for the most part), that fundamentally is about personal transport, or the ultimate expression of it. This means it doesn’t matter what PR bunk the marketing department will come up with, none of it will wash with activists. In fact it’ll only energise them.

    With a bigger focus on tyre pollution, the targets will change as well. Motorsport has a political battle for survival on its hands in the future.

    1. It’s a surprise that the ridiculous tyre usage in F1 has so far escaped wide-spread criticism.

      A somewhat cynical take would be that this is a serious issue with heavy BEVs aswell, and something that doesn’t fit the push for said vehicles.

      1. The issue is not really tyre usage by F1. It’s tyres for personal vehicles. Its about what f1 represents, not that actuality of it.

        If it was we could start to question why you need thousands of people to build two cars. The fastest thing around Cadwell is a Superkart and that can be built in a day or two by bending some tubes and welding it together. There’s one guy who races a superkart and transports the whole thing in a family wagon. Carbon footprint of that vs F1 is miniscule.

        1. It’s indeed all about what it represents, and also what it claims to be. F1 could be leading on tyre development, but it’s not. It’s stuck in the most wasteful era and seems to relish it, rejecting each and every supplier that makes a case for a different approach.

          And you’re absolutely right that F1 teams are bloated. But with $ being handed to the teams each year they’re under no pressure to slim down.

  2. I live near Barcelona. Catalunya’s (and Barcelona’s) government really are full of hypocrites that now charge you additional tax for old cars, even if they already cannot enter the city, yet push hard to expand the airport to receive twice as many tourists. And that airport expansion would cover in concrete a protected area full of fauna.

    They talk green but do little for it…

  3. The whole Green Deal is one great subsidy fraud and nonsense. Race cars are supposed to roar and smell!

  4. F1 cars are among the cleanest in the world in terms of emissions. The current engines are also not noisy. But they probably don’t want to hear.

    1. Not noisy? The engines are real noisy but i think you wanted to hear the high RPM screams (is losing power)
      The current engines are very efficient how more ‘silent’ how more power it delivers.
      They even remove the demper to make it louder turbo sound…..

  5. I bet while the roads were closed for the event, emissions were a lot lower than usual. Well, they’re probably right about the noise, but the air quality was certainly no worse than usual.

  6. I wonder what percentage of those in Barcelona agree with these protestors?

  7. Coventry Climax
    20th June 2024, 15:45

    Maybe if they built special places for racecars to drive around on, so they don’t have to do it in cities anymore? That’s also much more convenient to house the spectators.
    Oh wait …

    On a more serious note:
    What’s all this with show runs? What’s the actual difference to what happens on sundays? Is it because there’s not enough shows on the calendar, with those those on it constantly fully sold out?
    So, in order to gain more profit, and get a larger audience involved, they spread it out over more events? That’s the whole reason for these saturdays sprint thingies in the first place, right?
    So that’s still not enough and they now lower the thresholds for people to come in contact with the show? Low admission fees, low cost for security, hospitability (food, drinks and toilets), travelling/transport and parking issues, leaving all of those for others to solve? (Part of the strategy for the ‘sustainability equation’ for F1; just taking those factors completely out of it?)
    Why else would they want these extra, low threshold events?

    But then: What about admission prices, availablity and duration of training sessions, pay-TV and the whole lot, as being the decisive factors for high thresholds in the first place?
    It used to be you could go to the circuit for next to nothing to watch cars go round in practice for several hours to get infected with the F1 virus, but they’ve done away with most of that and raised prices for it to unjustifiable levels.

    In music, the bigger the show on stage, the less actual musicianship is going on. A concert is where you visit to watch and listen to musicians playing , and that’s what you pay for. In a show, musicianship is reduced to being a degree of byproduct for the pyro, video, choreography, effects and whatnots. And you pay for all of those too.
    Somewhere along the line of wanting to make more and more money and get bigger and bigger audiences, it’s reached a flipping point, where actually music played live is now the support for the visuals, and electronics, instead of the other way round.
    I see no difference to what’s currently going on in F1. I’ve also stopped going to shows a long time ago already.

  8. F1 already visits circuits that hold over 100k spectators … why go into cities where people are trying to work and live, and shove your sport down their throat?
    Not everyone is a fan. Respect their space and their choices.

  9. An Sionnach
    21st June 2024, 1:58

    It’s easy to be cynical, but F1 is risking alienating fans and perhaps losing its place in motor racing by getting behind the development of greener technologies. This won’t please hardcore environmental protesters, but they are unrealistic, not wanting an energy transition, but a cliff edge that the west should walk off while its clearly aggressive and currently imperialistic enemies don’t bother so much. Capitulation, essentially, which isn’t a surprise given that Marxism and coercing people is more important to them than the environment. The best way to live your life is to get out there, set an example for people and be content that perhaps nobody else will follow it.

    I don’t know the nature of these protests. Could be just some community groups. Other than people who are put out by the closure of the streets, what they’re saying sounds like a load of rubbish. It’s easy to avert road deaths if you abolish roads and ban everyone from doing anything. Not all revolutions bring progress. Mao’s great leap forward brought famine, for example. It’s a credit to humanity that it is so difficult to replace the systems we have in place and make them more efficient. We cause a lot of pollution, but if you compare humanity with a bird colony, we understand the importance of cleaning up after ourselves, have taken steps to do so and will hopefully manage to improve how we do this without going back to the use of donkey, horse and manpower. If you go back to the days when you needed a legion of men to build things, it would hardly be progress for mankind… or for women.

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