The F1 engineers tackling climate change

Unlikely as it might seem, F1 engineers are playing their part in tackling the environmental crisis facing our planet.

In recognition of international Earth Day, it is worth reflecting on the actions being taken by the Formula 1 industry with respect to environmental sustainability, particularly as it drives towards its ambitious target of becoming Net Zero Carbon by 2030.

It was back in November 2019 that Formula 1 announced a decade of action which will see the sport end its reliance on fossil fuels and decarbonise the racing, factory operations, travel, logistics and even the Grand Prix race weekends.

While Formula 1 and all ten teams have embarked on a wide range of initiatives, it is also valuable to consider how some of the sport’s brightest engineers are helping to tackle the challenge of climate change. 

Paddy Lowe and Dr Christiana Pace are two such people; Lowe has set out to create sustainable fuels which can be produced at an industrial scale to accelerate the world’s shift away from an addiction to fossil fuels, while Pace is helping organisations including Formula 1 teams to achieve their environmental sustainability goals.

Zero Petroleum

As part of Formula 1’s ambitious net zero carbon target, cars will take to the track using 100% carbon-neutral synthetic fuels in 2026. Even the trucks and planes which transport F1 around the world will ultimately be able to use sustainable fuel, a significant step forward for the wider transportation and logistics industry. Ahead of that, Paddy Lowe, a former Technical Director at Williams, McLaren and Mercedes with an F1 career spanning more than three decades, has been on a mission to decarbonise by producing sustainable fuels. 

Lowe is one of the most successful engineers and technical directors in Formula 1 history, amassing no fewer than 158 Grand Prix wins and 12 World Championship titles. Combining his extensive motorsports expertise with his childhood dream of developing sustainable, clean-burning power, Paddy founded Zero Petroleum.

Amid the climate emergency and need to abandon our reliance on fossil fuels, Zero Petroleum is dedicated to the production of fully sustainable, carbon-neutral fuels which can be used in existing petrol, diesel and jet engines in cars, ships and planes. 

The method is an adaptation of the Fischer-Tropsch process, combining air and water to create clean-burning fuel.  It takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and combines it with hydrogen produced through electrolysis.  The resulting fuel can be used in the normal manner, but the carbon capture-based production process means there is no additional carbon dioxide introduced into the atmosphere. 

To demonstrate its technology, Zero worked with the Royal Air Force to attain the Guinness World Record for the first aircraft powered by synthetic fuel. 

“We are particularly proud of the fact that this high-grade aviation gasoline was developed in just five months and ran successfully in the aircraft as a whole-blend without any modification whatsoever to the aircraft or the engine,” said Lowe. The two organisations have since been collaborating to research and develop techniques to produce the fuel at a commercial scale, supporting the RAF’s goal of becoming Net Zero by 2040.

Lowe’s Formula 1 experience has been key in developing this sustainable fuel, using cutting edge technology to create an innovative product which has significant implications for society and benefits for our planet.

Enovation Consulting

Dr. Cristiana Pace is the founder and CEO of Enovation Consulting Ltd, a sustainability and strategic management consultancy with a with a mission to drive positive and meaningful change through high-performance sport. 

Enovation delivers creative and innovative research-based solutions that empower its clients to integrate sustainability into their business strategy – delivering on their short, medium, and long-term ESG goals.

Cristiana established the company following a successful career in F1 which included working trackside for the FIA’s technical departments and developing innovative motorsport engineering solutions at Williams Advanced Engineering. 

To date her company has helped sports organisations and teams, including in Formula 1, to deliver robust, data-driven sustainability strategies in their quest to achieve ambitious Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals.

This has included working with organisations such as the MoneyGram Haas F1 Team and Motorsport UK to help them navigate the process of being awarded FIA Environmental Accreditation. 

Leveraging the power of sport and motorsport, Enovation Consulting assist their clients in creating positive impact community initiatives, events, and STEM outreach activities that engage, educate and inspire.  This involves working closely with businesses, circuits, and venues to advance understanding of Sustainability Management Plans (SMP) and Environmental Management Systems (EMS).

As the company’s knowledge and expertise is rooted in the motorsport and sport industries, with a strong understanding of the sectors and their ecosystems, it is a pivotal example of how motorsports knowledge is contributing to global sustainability initiatives and creating a positive impact on the Earth’s future.

Since this year’s Earth Day theme is ‘Invest in Our Planet’, it’s time for more organisations and companies to invest in a sustainable future. If F1 can do it, anyone can. 

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