In November of 2019, Formula 1 announced their ambitious “Net Zero” program, a push to make the sport carbon neutral by 2030. At the time of the announcement, a report indicated that the sport had produced 256,000 tons of CO2 emissions during the 2019 season.
The goal of Net Zero? Reduce that number to zero by 2030.
This ambitious program requires an effort from the sport, the teams, and the races themselves. With the grid set to head to Las Vegas for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, how are the teams and F1 working towards this goal, and what is the new race in Sin City doing to help the effort?
Formula 1’s Net Zero campaign
When F1 announced its Net Zero campaign in 2019, the sport offered a two-step approach, with the ultimate goal of being completely carbon neutral by 2030. In announcing the plan Chase Carey, then the President and CEO of F1, had this to say:
“Over its 70-year history, F1 has pioneered numerous technologies and innovations that have positively contributed to society and helped to combat carbon emissions. From ground-breaking aerodynamics to improved brake designs, the progress led by F1 teams has benefitted hundreds of millions of cars on the road today.
“Few people know that the current F1 hybrid power unit is the most efficient in the world, delivering more power using less fuel, and hence CO2, than any other car. We believe F1 can continue to be a leader for the auto industry and work with the energy and automotive sector to deliver the world’s first net zero carbon hybrid internal combustion engine that hugely reduces carbon emissions around the world.
“In launching F1’s first-ever sustainability strategy, we recognise the critical role that all organisations must play in tackling this global issue. By leveraging the immense talent, passion and drive for innovation held by all members of the F1 community, we hope to make a significant positive impact on the environment and communities in which we operate. The actions we are putting in place from today will reduce our carbon footprint and ensure we are net zero carbon by 2030.”
The first stage? Making sure every race would qualify as an “F1 Sustainable Spectacle.” That meant each race would use sustainable materials with all waste materials “re-used, recycled, or composted.” In addition, each race would provide fans with “incentives and tools” to reach the venue in a “greener way.”
The goal for the first stage? 2025.
So far, progress has been made by the sport and individual races towards that goal. For example, the Circuit de Catalunya — site of the Spanish Grand Prix — and the Sakhir International Circuit — site of the Bahrain Grand Prix as well as pre-season testing — are 100% renewably powered.
In addition, strides have been made regarding getting fans to venues. Zandvoort, the site of the Dutch Grand Prix, is a great example. By estimates, 25,000 fans ditched their cars and used pushbikes to get to the track last year, while 40,000 used public transport or walked to the venue.
The second stage of the plan is more ambitious. In order to create a “net zero carbon footprint from factor to flag,” that will require in F1’s own words “ultra-efficient and low/zero carbon logistical and travel.” For a sport that winds its way from the Middle East to Asia, and then to the Americas, that is a big ask.
Then, of course, there are the cars themselves. F1 has a goal of “net zero carbon powered race cars,” with all of this happening by 2030.
The current generation of F1 cars runs on “E10” fuel, a blend of 90% fuel and 10% renewable ethanol. This generation of cars already uses a hybrid power unit, which combines an internal combustion engine (ICE) with electric motors powered by an energy recovery system (ERS).
These cars use less fuel, but are still incredibly powerful, making them in F1’s words “the most efficient in the world, delivering more power using less fuel than any other road car.”
But even more changes are coming. The next generation of F1 cars, set to hit the track for 2026, are planned to move F1 even closer to their stated Net Zero goal. These cars will run on “100% sustainable fuels,” which provide an 85-96% reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to fossil fuels. “Sometimes called e-fuels, sometimes called synthetic fuels, advanced sustainable fuels are made up of components derived from an approved carbon capture scheme or from municipal waste or non-food biomass, that achieves a greenhouse gas saving of at least the level of the current Renewable Energy Directive (RED).”
This technology has the potential to transform the landscape, from the F1 grid to your garage. These fuels have been designed with not just F1 cars in mind, but consumer vehicles as well. “This gives us the chance for these vehicles to be sustainable in as short a time as possible,” said Stefano Domenicali, the current President and CEO of F1. “F1 is taking a leadership and pioneering role for the good of society.”
However, to achieve their goals F1 needs buy-ins from both teams and races. What are the teams doing to help in the process, and how will the Las Vegas Grand Prix fit into F1’s Net Zero plans?
How teams are working towards Net Zero
F1’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 requires more than their own efforts. It needs the ten teams on the grid working towards that goal as well.
This is exactly what all ten teams are doing, and it is an effort they take extremely seriously.
“I think sustainability is a mission the whole world is on,” said McLaren CEO Zak Brown to me when I spoke with him last month.
“And so sustainability, I think within our racing team, our sponsors, our fans, our sponsor partners, and Formula 1, it’s critically important, and we’ve taken a leadership position.”
The team has been at the forefront of F1’s sustainability push, as they were the first to release a report on their progress back in 2022, outlining their efforts during the 2021 racing season.
“We were the first team to produce a sustainability report. We produced our second one earlier this year,” said Brown at the end of October to me.
“And what’s more important, not just producing a report, but the content itself. Of where we have been, where we are today, and most importantly, where we are going. We certainly would love the idea of having a full circular Formula 1 car in the future. And I’m sure that technology will be there in time.
“So we continue to push the boundaries and explore the technologies around sustainability.”
Some of the highlights from the team’s second sustainability report? They reduced emissions by 22% during the 2022 season, they reduced air freight emissions by 9% during 2022 by transporting materials more by sea, and they traveled by train to the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix, reducing emissions by 61%.
“Now is the time to level the playing field so teams no longer
have to choose between investing in car performance
and investing in sustainability,” said Brown in the team’s second report. “It’s an impossible choice.”
McLaren is not the only team making strides towards sustainability. Mercedes announced at the end of October a 67% reduction in emissions for race and hospitality trucks and generators during the European portion of the F1 schedule through the use of biofuel, surpassing their goal of a 60% reduction.
The team now has a goal of using the HVO100 biofuel in all their trucks for the 2024 season.
“We are delighted to achieve such a positive set of results and reduce our freight and generator emissions significantly over this season’s European races. The use of biofuels is one of our key pioneering initiatives as part of our overarching sustainability strategy for achieving Net Zero for our Race Team Controlled emissions by 2030,” said Alice Ashpitel, Head of Sustainability for Mercedes F1.
“Formula One is the most well-known global sport in the world, so it is vital we can use our platform to pioneer change. We can no longer compromise on the impact we have on our planet, and we need to adapt to reduce our emissions,” said Team Principal Toto Wolff. “We are a team of innovators and have an ambition to be the world’s most sustainable sports team. Results like this show we are on the right track to achieving that milestone with sustainable fuels central to the team’s strategy to achieve Net Zero.
Over at Red Bull, the team partnered with Gold Standard in an effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. According to Red Bull, steps taken to date “have resulted in a reduction of over 70% of our Scope 1 & 2 emissions and over 30% of our measured Scope 3 emissions as we continue to accelerate our journey to Net Zero.”
The Las Vegas Grand Prix and Net Zero
How does the Las Vegas Grand Prix fit with F1’s Net Zero plans?
As noted above, part of the push towards 2030 involves race venues, and making sure every race would qualify as an “F1 Sustainable Spectacle.”
Race promoters behind the Las Vegas Grand Prix have taken a number of steps to reach this goal.
For example, the Las Vegas Grand Prix announced a partnership with the Southern Nevada Water Authority to launch a “first-of-its-kind water consumption reduction pilot.” Under this program, an atmospheric water generator (AMG) will be used to capture moisture and convert it into drinkable water.
Other steps the Las Vegas Grand Prix is taking towards sustainability? They have replaced single-use plastics with eco-friendly alternatives, taken steps to minimize indoor and outdoor water consumption, pursued LEED certification for the pit building, and implemented a food rescue plan for race week.
The race has also partnered with outside companies in this effort. They partnered with Liquid Death for beverages at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and cited that company’s efforts towards sustainability in the announcement. “Both Formula One and Las Vegas Grand Prix are devoted to sustainability and the use of only recyclable and compostable materials at our event, so it was a natural fit to partner with a like-minded brand,” said Renee Wilm the CEO of the Las Vegas Grand Prix. “We can’t wait for fans to enjoy Liquid Death beverages all weekend long and further our commitment to reducing plastic consumption.”
The Las Vegas Grand Prix has also partnered with Switch for technology services, a company “powered by 100% renewable energy.”
“Formula 1 has made it its mission to work towards becoming a net zero global sport, and, as the newest race on the F1 calendar, we wanted to ensure that we were doing our part to support that initiative,” said Pilar Harris, the Senior Director of CSR and Government Relations for the Las Vegas Grand Prix. “By collaborating with a local industry leader, like Switch, we can find ways to establish environmentally conscious practices and operate this event for the ultimate good of the Las Vegas community.”
F1 announced their Net Zero campaign back in 2019, and has taken steps themselves to reach that ambitious goal by 2030. Now the teams, and the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, are doing their part.