Like it or not, the F1 world is about excess. I think it’s a crucial and fundamental part of its nature. I always enjoyed that crazy and elitist essence. I guess that enormous waste that in many ways F1 racing means can make us feel weird or even bad about it, when considering social or political that are really important. But this show it’s a different world. In a smaller scale, it’s like those efforts to make F1 look like a ecologist activity: KERS (racing is anything but sustainable) or trimming minutes in Q3 (they said the reason wasting less fuel, but the fact is that those minutes were just boring). Maybe it’s a good idea trying to use F1 to solve some real problems, and the intentions are good too, no doubt. But changing those things that are inherent to F1 will bring a different show.
Can’s assessment is bleak for the more guilt-prone among us. Not only is Formula 1 unethical, but it shouldn’t even try as being ethical would change the whole character of F1! I hope I am not distorting Can’s opinion here (and my sincerest apologies if I am). But that is my reading of it.
I happen to disagree, in a sense, about the assertion that F1 is excessive in its use of resources. For one thing, fundamentally, a successful Formula 1 team is all about efficiency. Wasteful teams will go nowhere.
I suppose whether or not you think money spent in F1 is ‘wasted’ is based on a value judgement. We could get into a protracted debate about road relevancy. Many argue that the development of technology in F1 cars has no relation whatsoever to technology in road cars, so the trickle-down of successful technologies doesn’t happen.
On the other hand, I find it difficult to believe that were it not for motor racing today’s road cars would be as resource efficient as they are today. Certainly, Honda find their Formula 1 programme important enough that they send their road car guys to work in F1 for three years to gain engineering experience.
For instance, life-saving technologies such as ABS and traction control have benefited from early experimentation in racing cars. We may see energy recovery systems such as KERS take great leaps forward in years to come thanks to their development in F1 cars.
And surely F1 and motor racing in general have a lot to offer in terms of road safety campaigns. Last year we saw an F1 driver survive a 75g crash. Yet one million people are killed on the world’s roads every year. The FIA Foundation can do a lot of good work in this area.
You could take a classical liberal approach and say that as long as Formula 1 benefits its fans — in the sense that it brings us great enjoyment — then that is enough to justify it. At the end of the day, people are only ever looking for happiness. F1 provides this.
Someone else will come along, though, and point out the damage that Formula 1 does to the environment. This seems to be the heart of a lot of what Can is saying. F1 does damage to the environment: get over it.
But does F1 damage the environment as much as some people make out? For one thing, the FIA have ensured that Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship are both carbon neutral. They have been doing this since 1997, long before it became a trendy thing to make everything carbon neutral.
Even disregarding that though, is F1 really that much more damaging to the environment than other activities? The cars are surely gas guzzlers. But the amount of carbon emitted is an iota of a smidgen of a hair of the environmental damage being done at any one time.
If you think about it for a bit, it is clear that football — to pick just one example — is far more environmentally unfriendly and resource-intensive than F1 is. Take just one football league, the English Premier League. In one season there are 380 matches. Each of these matches can expect to attract a five figure attendance. Often these spectators will travel hundreds of miles to watch their team play. Those carbon emissions are stacking up pretty quickly.
And that is just for one tournament in one country. Throw in peripheral club tournaments such as the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup and you have one seriously smoggy sport.
Even if one F1 race meeting looks excessive compared to one football match, the fact that F1 can come up with a World Champion (not just a national competition winner) in a maximum of 20 races makes it look like a model of restraint, efficiency and low carbon emissions. Yet, I do not see anyone jumping up and down about the environmental impact of football.
Where I agree with Can is that I think that Formula 1 shouldn’t change. Leaving aside the question of whether or not F1 is ethical / environmentally friendly / whatever, he is right that altering F1 to make it more ethical (etc) would fundamentally change the sport.
I would not be opposed to certain changes to alter the balance. Formula 1 is a restricted sport — it wouldn’t be a ‘formula’ otherwise. The introduction of KERS is, I think, a good idea. Similar changes, as long as they are carefully thought out and in the interests of the sport, should be greeted warmly by F1 fans. (This does not include engine homologation, which is a terrible idea.)
What I think would be a fabulous idea would be the formation of an explicitly environmentally-friendly (or at least relatively green) motor racing series to run in tandem with Formula 1. Perhaps GP2 could be transformed into such a series.
This might mean mistakes being made along the way. Who would doubt that such a series would have put all of its eggs in the biofuels basket, biofuels being a major cause of the increased food price inflation we are currently experiencing the world over. But at the same time it will do a lot of good as well, in the public relations stakes if nothing else.
What do you think? Am I kidding myself on that F1 can be defended as an ethical sport? Is there a role for the introduction of greener technologies?
(As an aside, I don’t know why Can is named so. But Can is one of my favourite bands, so kudos for that. 😀 )