Racing towards Net Zero: How F1 is going green in response to criticism around its impact on the environment

As the chequered flag falls on Formula One’s European triple header, ZCA analyses the action off the track during this record-breaking season. With a packed calendar of 24 races, how is the pinnacle of motorsport attempting to silence its critics and address environmental concerns?
July 9, 2024

Growing global presence and an expanding calendar of races raises the stakes for F1’s climate commitments

Formula One has long received criticism around its impact on the environment, given the annual procession of cars, personnel and equipment traveling across the globe as part of a growing race calendar. This year, the petrol-engine cars which utilise notoriously difficult-to-recycle carbon-fibre bodywork, have been engaged in a championship which spans a record 24 individual races in 21 countries, across 5 continents.

However, the sport has taken steps to change its image and to address its critics, primarily through its target of reaching net zero carbon by 2030, set by the sport’s governing body the FIA. At the heart of this goal are three core pillars: to deliver 100% sustainable fuels; to leave a legacy of positive change wherever it races; and to take steps to build a more diverse and inclusive sport. However, despite the net zero 2030 goal being set back in 2019, it is has taken until April this year for the sport to release its first ‘Sustainability Impact Report’.

The headline finding from this research is that despite the sport targeting a 50% reduction in its carbon footprint by 2030 (versus its 2018 footprint), it has only achieved a 13% reduction so far. As of 2022, the sport introduced E10 fuel into cars, however it is the upcoming regulation changes which will impact the sport from 2026 which offer a fantastic opportunity to further reduce emissions. Here, F1 is set to take a leap and introduce the use of 100% sustainable fuel, which will be created from waste or non-food biomass. Further, fuel loads are set to continue to decrease; where in 2013 each car used about 160 kg of fuel per Grand Prix, this reduced to 100 kg in 2020, and for the 2026 season, F1 is committed to using as little as 70 kg of fuel per car, per race.

However, the bulk of emissions in Formula One don’t actually come from the racing on track, the cars themselves contribute just 0.7% to overall emissions. It is in fact the ‘traveling circus’ of equipment, personnel, fans and business partners, as well as the race day experience- such as powering the paddock, fan zones, and other facilities. Of the 223,031 tCO2e generated by the sport in 2022, 10% came from factories and facilities, 12% from event operations, 29% from business travel, and 49% from logistics[i].

Off-track action paving the way for greener racing

Whilst recent F1 seasons have seen an expanding race calendar, alongside a rapidly growing global audience (helped in part by Netflix series ‘Drive to Survive’), the sport is implementing changes to reduce its environmental impact off the circuit, as well as on. To begin with, in February this year, ahead of testing for the new season, the FIA announced that Formula 1 was to become the first motorsport competition to use Pirelli FSC-certified tyres. It is also seeking to tackle the significant emissions stemming from the transport of parts and materials between races. This has led to an uptick in the use of sea freight, rather than air freight, with the initiative helped by attempts to ‘regionalise’ the race calendar for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, reducing mileage between Grand Prix events.

Cleaner road transport is another initiative, where the European leg of the 2023 season utilised DHL biofuel powered trucks across nine races, reducing logistics carbon emissions by 83%. Looking at progress this year, the recent European ‘triple header’ has seen the championship move from Spain, to Austria, and then to England, the latter two race locations have been critical in moving sustainability forwards for the sport.

For example, the Austrian-leg, held at the Red Bull Ring, saw deployment of low-carbon energy systems, including use of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) biofuel, 200 solar panels covering 600 m2 and a battery storage system supplied by a renewable power grid, all of which was deployed to power the paddock. When used at the same Grand Prix in 2023, CO2 emissions were cut drastically, from 198 tonnes in 2022 to just 12 tonnes in 2023. Similarly, The British Grand Prix held at Silverstone last year was fully powered by green energy alternatives. This included 2,746 solar panels and the use of HVO fuel in all temporary generators. This year saw Silverstone supplied with 250,000 litres of HVO fuel to power the paddock, as well as a fleet of electric Skoda vehicles in action to ferry key personnel and hospitality guests to and from the circuit. Silverstone itself announced its ‘shift to zero’ sustainability plans back in 2022[ii].

Formula One knows the importance of addressing climate criticism, it is no stranger to the impact of extreme weather events

Last year the importance of Formula One improving its environmental impact very much hit home with the tragic flooding seen in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Occurring at the same time as the Grand Prix in Imola, the race which was scheduled from 19th-22nd May 2023 was ultimately canceled. Parts of the circuit were flooded, and it was deemed unsafe for race attendees to travel to the region, where an expected 64,000 fans were predicted to be on site on race day. The timing of the cancellation of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix could not be more poignant; hours after the event was called off, locally-based team AlphaTauri announced they had achieved the highest level of sustainability recognised by the FIA.

Imola is not alone, just 2 years earlier, F1 faced a washout at The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, more commonly known as ‘Spa’ in Belgium. In this instance, the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix was effectively completed under a safety car with no overtaking, as the volume of water was deemed unsafe for the drivers. Failing light also meant the race could not be postponed to a later point in the day.

These events highlight just how critical F1’s work on cutting emissions is, as the sport strives to address its critics and create a greener championship moving forwards.


[i] Formula-1-2023-Impact-Report.pdf (


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Lauren Foye
Head of Reports

Lauren has extensive experience as an analyst and market researcher in the digital technology and travel sectors. She has a background in researching and forecasting emerging technologies, with a particular passion for the Videogames and eSports industries. She joined the Critical Information Group as Head of Reports and Market Research at GRC World Forums, and leads the content and data research team at the Zero Carbon Academy. “What drew me to the academy is the opportunity to add content and commentary around sustainability across a wealth of industries and sectors.”

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