Formula One and the Inconvenient Truth

If the 45th vice president and self proclaimed "former next President of the United States", Al Gore, is to be believed, humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. Gore makes a convincing argument in this Academy award-winning documentary film,...

If the 45th vice president and self proclaimed "former next President of the United States", Al Gore, is to be believed, humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb.

Gore makes a convincing argument in this Academy award-winning documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, many of the worlds leading scientists studies agree that man is influencing the climate and is doing so at an increasing rate.

Gore is driven by the need to educate the public about the climate crisis; indeed he has donated 100 percent of the profits from his book and the movie to a new bipartisan educational campaign to further increase awareness about global warming.

Public opinion on climate change is changing rapidly, not only because of the efforts of Gore and those like him, but by the evidence of the perceived increase severe weather events on the ground, also playing a major role.

The FIA's plans to put F1 at the fore front of green technologies were announced at a meeting of the World Motorsport council on the 8th of December 2006.

The new proposals are to be brought into the sports regulations in stages.

Starting in 2009 it is planned cars would feature energy recovery and re-use from braking systems.

From 2010 onwards a proportion of waste heat as well as a proportion of waste energy from exhaust gases are be recovered and used to propel the car.

2011 would see rules relating to high efficiency turbocharging and the introduction of fuel (energy) flow limits which would effectively reduce engine speeds so an engine downsize is proposed to keep the cars at 15000+ rpm.

The potential freedom to use any bio fuel, with a limited maximum energy flow rate rather than a maximum fuel flow rate is also proposed. The regulations would be freed up to allow complete freedom to use electronics in the drive train and engine management to make the car more energy efficient.

In addition there will be limitations on materials used to bring the technologies into line with those used in road cars.

This alignment to road technologies would allow the competitive nature of F1 to lead the way for huge efficiency gains in normal cars.

Formula 1 underlined its commitment by announcing the appointment of automotive technology and engineering specialists Ricardo in a press release on the 11th May 2007.

It is planned that Ricardo, an international consultancy which provides extensive design and development support to the automotive industry, will assist the FIA in the consideration and application of energy-saving and environmentally efficient technologies.

FIA President Max Mosley said in the press release: "The FIA is working closely with the automotive manufacturers to develop energy-efficient and environmentally relevant regulation changes for the future of Formula One. Ricardo has a vast amount of experience in automotive research and development and will be an invaluable addition to this process."

In the same release Ricardo CEO Dave Shemmans said: "We are proud to have been selected as a technology partner in this project. Formula One operates at the very pinnacle of motor sport and has a significant role to play in encouraging innovation in fuel-efficient technologies. Such innovation has the potential to provide benefits to auto makers, race teams and motoring consumers alike."

The idea of Formula one leading the world towards new economical technologies will not prove to be easy as it has to be balanced with the aim of Formula one to make the sport more affordable. The teams will clearly spend whatever money they can get on making the cars the fastest they can; implementing such regulations will give even more scope for the expenditure to go through the roof.

Unfortunately F1's plans to lead the new technologies has been dealt a blow by the European Union Commission which has adopted a proposal for the reduction of CO2 emissions for road cars and is currently debating the introduction new legislation establishing binding targets for the reduction of CO2 emissions for with financial penalties if these are not met. The current system of voluntary reductions and the agreed average level of 140 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre driven by 2008-2009 look unlikely to be met with current progress.

It now looks likely that the huge levels of expenditure and expertise required to develop the new technologies will have to be dedicated by manufacturers to meeting the regulations for road cars rather than being ploughed into F1.

It is thought that this may damage the future of F1 as it leaves it more open to attack from environmental campaigners. F1 would not be able to site its benefit to the planet as a whole in its defense.

However F1 is taking climate change seriously. The FIA has made F1 carbon neutral since 1997 by financially supporting the Scolel Te project in southern Mexico.

The governing body has offset its greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing credits in the project's trust fund, the Fonfo BioClimatico. The trust fund is involved in many schemes, including tree plantations, growing timber and fruit trees, and protecting threatened forests. The offsets are designed not only to cover the impact of the cars themselves but the effect of the travel and the organisation itself.

Honda has taken this ethic a step further with its myearthdream program. This shares the same aim as Gore in educating the population about the issues of climate change. It also asks them to make a pledge to help the environment and in return their name will be put on a small part of the car.

The sport's governing body the FIA and even teams themselves are showing it is possible to make a difference and become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Details for the Scolel Te project can be found at
Honda's myearthdrean website can be found at

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Series General , Formula 1