Formula (ON)E

From now on it will be a two-horse race. Last December FIA (International Federation of the Automobile) decided to give world championship status to Formula E from 2020-21. An unprecedented move that means that there are now two single-seater racing series recognized as a world championship. And F1, which has always been synonymous with cutting-edge technology, cannot tolerate being associated with the past, with the fossil fuels industry, to the advantage of the new greener competitors.

A few weeks earlier F1 had announced the commitment to reduce their carbon footprint immediately and to have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030. In 2018 F1’s carbon footprint was equal to 256.5 tonnes, not including fans’ transport to races: over 70% of this came from personnel and equipment transport and only 0.7% from the overall F1 car emissions. The pledge is ambitious: “We will move to ultra-efficient logistics and travel and 100% renewably powered offices, facilities and factories and offset emissions that cannot be cut. All events will be sustainable by 2025 – no more single-use plastics; reused, recycled or composted wastes will be the rule, not the exception. And in 2021, regulations will demand that the petrol used in an F1 car has a biofuel content of at least 10%.”

Chase Carey, CEO of Formula 1 said: “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.”

The electric vehicle sector is the one with the highest expansion potential in the car market. And the F1 mission statement, as well as the FIA’s decision to recognize Formula E as a world championship, reveal an acknowledgement of these new commercial prospects for the automobile industry. But too many championship and too many champions can only diminish each other’s value. Boxing was killed by the proliferation of titles and weight classes. Despite FIA’s willingness to enlarge its family and to raise its members’ profile and ambition, Formula One and Formula E are not there to cooperate. Apparently.

To grab more attention they are presented as conscious fighters who know that in racing there is no room for ex aequo. However, there would be no interest in a traditional technical comparison – F1’s car is nearly 200kg lighter, has triple power and can reach 100KM in nearly half time and has a maximum speed of nearly 380km/h opposed to 225km/h. What has changed in 2019 is that going faster is not sufficient anymore to justify F1’s status as the pinnacle of Motorsport. They need to show adaptability to please a public more conscious of climate and energy issues.

That’s why FIA launched the race for the title of champion of the modern environmentalism, where fastest cars are also the most eco-friendly. A race with only one possible winner and it’s called Liberty. Liberty Media owns Formula One, Liberty Global owns Formula E. Different companies, sure, but Liberty Media owner John Malone is also Liberty Global chairman. The merger of 1 and E into a greener Formula or the transformation of Formula E into an F1’s more sustainable spin-off will be both viable options to avoid environmentally-conscious sponsors’ ending their financial support to Motorsport’s biggest show.

Gianni Serra