Can Formula 1 really become net zero by 2030?

With the Formula 1 World Championship underway once again, the environmental impact of motor racing is under the microscope once more. F1 has set an ambitious target of becoming net zero by 2030, but major question marks surround its aims.
April 12, 2023

With 20 cars driving around a race track multiple times in different locations around the world across nine months of every year, and with vast amounts of equipment moved between each race, Formula 1 is a sport synonymous with environmental damage.

Last month, the 2023 F1 World Championship began with the first of a record 23 races taking place in Bahrain. Deeply aware of the challenges it faces – and under pressure from the success of electric vehicle-only Formula E – back in 2019, F1 launched a sustainability strategy and set a target of achieving net zero carbon by 2030[ii].

F1 revealed that its scope 1, 2 & 3 footprint was estimated to be 256,551 tonnes of CO2E. Perhaps surprisingly, just 0.7% of those emissions are generated by the racing cars themselves. By far, the biggest contributor is logistics – the movement of equipment by road, air or sea – which accounts for 45% of the footprint. The second largest is business travel – including all transport and hotels for the F1 teams and major event partners – which contributes 27.7%. The other major contributors are facilities and factories, accounting for 19.3%, and event operations, which contribute 7.3%.

A key part of the strategy is “regionalising the F1 calendar” in order to reduce the distances between each race, but this is being complicated by F1’s expansion and the demands of promoters and host countries. At various points this year, teams need to move from Baku to Miami, from Spain to Canada to Austria, and from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi[iii].

While reorganising the calendar may take several years to achieve, F1 claims to have already reduced its carbon footprint through remote broadcast operations, enabling it to reduce freight, as well as redesigning freight containers so more efficient aircraft can be used to transport the equipment. F1 has also made a commitment that all its events will be sustainable by 2025, with all waste re-used, recycled or composted, and incentives and tools to “offer every fan a greener way to reach the race.”

F1 has been engaging with race promoters to create a sustainability plan for each event and develop year-on-year targets. It states that in the 2022 season, over 80% of promoters “made strides in reducing single use through water refill stations, increased recycling facilities and refillable cups.”

It adds that over 70% of promoters started offering greener ways to reach the race through solutions such as shuttles and broader support of public transport, and over 50% started powering their events using alternative energy sources like solar panels, green tariffs and biofuels. As for the impact of facilities and factories, F1 says it is transitioning to 100% renewable energy in all its offices.

When it comes to racing fuel, F1 and motor sport’s governing body, the FIA, are focused heavily on the development of a new sustainable fuel for 2026 and beyond – when new engine regulations come into effect[iv]. These state that the new F1 power units will run on fully sustainable fuels and that “no new fossil carbon will be burned, with carbon instead to be derived from non-food sources, genuine municipal waste, or even out of the atmosphere.” The fuel is intended to be used beyond the Grand Prix circuit. F1 says it is already in production and is designed with a ‘drop-in’ feature to accelerate adoption and reduce costs for use in existing road cars. The move follows the introduction in the 2022 season of E10 fuel – comprising 10% ethanol, which F1 claims will reduce CO2 emissions overall.

However, some experts have cast doubt on F1’s claims about the potential impact of the fuels it is developing. In a report from the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI), head of innovation David Bott said: “E10 is an evolutionary backwater – adding just 10% ethanol does nothing for emissions. A quick enthalpy calculation shows the energy in the fuel has decreased, so you need more.”[v] Bott also questioned the green credentials of the proposed sustainable fuel for use from 2026. “What Formula 1 is proposing to do is analogous to sustainable aviation fuel – to make octane from a non-fossil source of carbon.

“[To do this], you can use biomass or “synthetic”, which basically means distillate plastic waste. It is effectively using fossil carbon that was used for something else; so, it doesn't make the situation any worse, but neither does it really contribute to lowering emissions. It’s just short-cycle carbon.”

The comparison to sustainable aviation fuel is particularly alarming given a study from The Royal Society released in February found that sustainable aviation solutions still require much more research and development, with the resources needed to produce them also out of reach[vi]. The study looked at four options – hydrogen, biofuels, synthetic fuels and ammonia – which could replace fossil jet fuel and concluded that none could do so in the short term.

F1 insists that its new sustainable fuel will provide a major boost to tackling climate change. It notes that by 2030, there will be an estimated 1.4 billion cars on the road globally, with only 8% pure Battery Electric Vehicles, leaving more than 1.2bn Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles.

“F1’s sustainable fuel would be available for use in all of these existing vehicles, reducing emissions globally, while it could also filter through to heavy road transport, shipping and aviation,” it states.

Of the different aspects of F1’s sustainability strategy, the initiatives around racing fuel and the events are the most visible and eye-catching, and if successful, will help boost F1’s credibility. However, given how low their impact is compared with that of its immense logistics operation, question marks are likely to persist in the coming years over how realistic reaching its net zero target really is.


[i] Photos | Photos - GP F1 de Bahreïn 2023 - Retour sur le week-end (

[ii] Environmental-sustainability-Corp-website-vFINAL.pdf

[iii]  F1 Schedule 2023 - Official Calendar of Grand Prix Races (

[iv] 7 things you need to know about the 2026 F1 engine regulations | Formula 1®

[v] Will Formula 1’s drop-in fuel actually reduce carbon emissions? (

[vi] UK net zero aviation ambitions must resolve resource and research questions around alternatives to jet fuel | Royal Society

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Jonathan Dyson

Jonathan's work on the sports industry has been published by The Times, The Observer, The Independent and The Sun, as well as Sport Business, Off The Pitch, FC Business and Zero Carbon Academy.

He has also contributed to BBC Radio 5 Live, Middle East Eye, The Scotsman,, World Soccer, When Saturday Comes, Wisden Cricket Monthly and School Sport.

Away from sports, he has held full-time and freelance roles at a number of global B2B publishers. He was the Founding Editor of Twist - a magazine covering the latest developments across the fashion industry supply chain. The title is published by World Textile Information Network (WTiN). Following the success of the launch of Twist, Jonathan was promoted to Head of Content at WTiN. In this newly-created role, he was responsible for developing WTiN's digital content and social media presence as the company evolved from being a magazine publisher to a market-leading media company across all platforms.

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