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F1 catches the big green wave
Alan Baldwin | November 24, 2006 16:39 IST
It will take some doing for Formula One to trade in its gas-guzzling, cash-devouring image for something leaner, greener and altogether more planet-friendly.
The sport's major players are working on it as a priority, however.
Both the world governing body and leading car manufacturers reiterated last week that it is time old stereotypes were scrapped and new technology embraced for a more environmentally-aware future. International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley and BMW's Burkhard Goeschel briefed reporters in Munich on a major breakthrough in relations between warring sides who have long been at loggerheads over how the billion-dollar sport should be run.
While their announcement that they were now agreed on the road map for the future will bring much-needed political stability, there was another key message.
Formula One, they said, had to be seen to be addressing 21st century environmental concerns or risk joining the dinosaurs in extinction.
Saving money, energy and resources and reducing waste is now top of the agenda for a sport famed in the past for profligate spending and conspicuous consumption.
The FIA says car manufacturers have been spending collectively more than $1 billion a year on ever higher-revving engines that squander vast amounts of energy through heat loss.
"The tide of world opinion has just turned and you'll see this particularly with regard to global warming," Mosley declared last week.
"There is a distinct movement of public opinion everywhere. I think with the changes we are making we have just caught that tide.
"But if we hadn't done it now we'd have missed the tide, F1 would have been left behind and eventually it would die because it would become less and less relevant," added Mosley.
"By embracing these technologies and making these changes with the manufacturers, I think we can catch the tide and we can swim with it."
Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the auto industry, with the threat of legislative action hanging over manufacturers.
It would be wrong to assume that Formula One has only just woken up, however.
Champions Renault's Enstone factory in central England is powered by renewable energy and rates as carbon neutral in CO2 emissions, while the FIA plants tens of thousands of trees every year in Mexico to balance the 'carbon footprint' left by the global travelling circus.
Yet the fact remains that while a regular 2.0 litre Renault Megane saloon burns 8.8 litres of fuel per 100km, a 2.4 litre V8 Formula One car will get through 50 litres.
The figure does not look quite so bad in terms of bhp produced per litre, with the F1 engine about one and a half times as thirsty.
But while the engine in the road car should be good for 300,000 km of motoring, the Formula One unit is little more than scrap metal after 1,400 -- if it lasts that long.
Mosley, who has worked closely with the EU on road safety issues and their new car assessment programme, is well aware of the political dimension and has been warning for some time about the need for a technology shift.
The thrust is to make new developments in Formula One of direct relevance to the car industry and ordinary road user, with a focus on energy recovery and retention. Engine development has been frozen from the end of this year.
The FIA wants a new fuel efficiency engine for 2011 after the introduction in 2009 of a lightweight system harnessing wasted energy from the brakes to provide extra horsepower in short bursts.
By 2010 the body hopes to draw up a regulation for the recovery and re-use of waste heat from the engines. In the longer term there is likely to be a completely new and smaller turbo-charged engine, in line with industry trends, and possible use of bio-fuels.
Top teams should be able to compete on annual budgets of 100 million euros and no more than 200 staff, compared to more than double that at present.
"We have to look at all areas for reducing consumption but also keeping the dynamics of F1," said Goeschel. "It may sound like a contradiction but it is not."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage