The 2023 Formula 1 World Championship will feature a record-breaking 23 different races – which is a win for F1 fans, but not a win for the planet.
F1 is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan sports. The highest tier of international motorsports goes racing all across the globe – from the tight-packed city streets of Monaco and Melbourne to iconic tracks like Belgium’s Spa or Japan’s Suzuka.
It’s easily one of the coolest parts of the sport: seeing the drivers crisscross the globe and go racing at a wide variety of tracks in wildly different conditions.
But the planning of the 2023 race schedule has come under fire for how inefficient and illogical it is – and how it seems to fly in the face of F1’s ambitions to be a more sustainable sport.
WATCH how F1 teams will have to travel the globe in 2023 below.
The calendar starts off with a modicum of logic, racing in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Azerbaijan. It probably would make more sense to go to Azerbaijan and then Australia, but Australia will always be a tricky one to fit into the calendar thanks to our geographic isolation.
After Azerbaijan, you’d think it would make sense to move straight on to European races – but then the schedule moves to Miami… Only to go straight back to Europe for three races, and then back to North America for a race, and then have another run of European races.
Moving on, backing up Singapore with another two Asian races makes sense, as does having four races in the Americas after that (although it would make more sense to start in Las Vegas and then continually head south to Austin, Mexico and then Brazil instead of sandwiching those two between the two American races). But then you fly back to the Middle East for Abu Dhabi?
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It’s actually even more air miles than that when you consider that the drivers regularly fly back to their home countries in-between races, and that team personnel will fly back to their HQs in Europe and America.
In 2019, F1 announced “an ambitious target” to be a net zero carbon emissions business by 2030 and is pouring money into developing sustainable fuels. Unless they’re planting a shitload of trees or they invent carbon-negative petrol, we don’t see how this sort of bizarre back-and-forth global travel will help the planet.
Unsurprisingly, fans on social media have been quick to point out how ill-considered the 2023 schedule is. “Is a Ferrari strategist doing the schedule,” one fan joked.
“Changing [the] calendar order would have a bigger environmental impact than the new fuels they’re trying.”
Speaking of fuels, we haven’t even brought up the fact that many of F1’s drivers fly by private jet to and from their races, which is one of the most fuel-thirsty, inefficient, polluting forms of travel.
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Another fan queried, “just have all of the North American races in one chunk, all European races in one chunk and all Middle Eastern races in one chunk, how is it that difficult?”
The logistics of F1 are truly mind-boggling. Each F1 team has hundreds of personnel and literal tonnes of equipment that they need to transport from country to country, most of which is done by air freight (F1 has a global partnership with DHL).
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In 2020, Haas race team operations manager Geoff Simmonds revealed in an interview that teams ship around 34 tonnes of equipment by air plus another 8 by sea when they go racing in Australia, with sea freight being shipped out months in advance. Air freight is so expensive that teams have to ship some things by sea.
Forget the planet – you’d think that it would be in the best interests of teams and the sport to have a more travel-efficient schedule so that everyone could save some money on logistics…
Not only will the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship have more races than any other F1 season ever, but it’s also introducing a brand-new race to the calendar: the Las Vegas Grand Prix. This addition to the schedule comes after 2022 saw the introduction of another new American race, the Miami Grand Prix, which will also be contested this year.
With Las Vegas and Miami joining the United States Grand Prix in Austin, there are now three races in the US – that’s more than any other country (there will also be two races in Italy this year: the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza).
This is emblematic of F1 (and its commercial rights holder, US-based media conglomerate Liberty Media)’s desire to capitalise on F1’s growing popularity in the United States. F1 is currently enjoying an unprecedented boom in popularity among young Americans, in no small part thanks to the success of Netflix’s Drive To Survive docu-drama series.
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But regardless of where F1’s racing going forward, I think we can all agree that the sport’s organisers need to do a better job planning out the race schedule, especially if they’re serious about reducing the sport’s environmental impact.