Vettel: F1 must do more for the environment

Sebastian Vettel

Formula 1 must innovate more if it is to stay relevant amid ever-increasing environmental concerns, says four-time driver’s champion Sebastian Vettel.

A driver who, at last year’s Russian Grand Prix suggested F1 “bring back V12s” instead of persisting with its current V6 turbo-hybrids, Vettel is now opposed to F1’s current engine formula from a completely opposite angle after a change in worldview.

“If I notice something, I bend down and look for a garbage can or take the rubbish home with me to throw it away,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine of his new environmentalist stance. “I plan exactly where I can go by car or train, whether scheduled flights are available if I have to be on the move. At home, too, I try to use resources more efficiently. Try to buy what we really need and not throw anything away.”

So for Vettel, the issue now with the current power units is that they are unlikely to spur development where it is truly needed – on the road.

“We drive the most efficient internal combustion engine in the world, but it brings nothing to the world because, the way we drive it, it will never find its way into series production,”he explained. “The only thing that will transfer is the message and the brand message, because the hybrid powertrain is considered much more positive for the environmental balance than the normal combustion engine.”

“The disappointing thing is that we don’t take our chance like this… Formula 1 could be a pioneer in technology again after a long time. I think it is precisely this pioneering role that can ensure our survival.”

Compounding the lack of road-car relevance is systems F1 did help pioneer, but has since moved away from.

“We don’t have traction control, anti-lock brakes, stability systems, all that is in every newer road car today,” he said. “Things that were developed on the race track and found their way into series production.

“There is no doubt that we have made great progress in the field of safety. But transferring today’s powertrain technology to series production is unrealistic because, on the one hand, the demands on the powertrain are very contradictory.

“On the racetrack, full throttle is constantly being driven, energy must be quickly recuperated and quickly released again. A conventional powertrain requires exactly the opposite.

“The technology developed [in F1] is therefore unsuitable for series production. On the other hand, road cars would cost ten times the current price.”

Additionally, Vettel says F1’s plans to use fuels with only 10% sustainable ethanol from 2022 (with an eye towards 100% by 2030) are not going fast enough.

“Only from 2022 will a ten percent share of second-generation biofuel become mandatory in Formula 1,” he said. “As of today, the proportion will only rise to 30 percent with new engine regulations. That would be from 2025/2026 at the earliest.

“I find that very, very disappointing. Because by 2025, there will surely be filling stations for everyone that sell gasoline made from one hundred percent renewable energies. Where is Formula 1’s pioneering role in the field of technology?”

With this in mind, Vettel says F1’s incoming CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Jean Todt must work to remove much of the political infighting between teams and get the sport focused on a greener future.

“It’s true, we are first and foremost an entertainment company. But there are things that no longer fit into our time.

“As a global sport, we have a corresponding platform to present exemplary accents worldwide, to transport a message. So we should start moving forward quickly.

“Individual strategies by racing teams – one wants to produce the best battery, the other the best hybrid – are of little use to us. Formula 1 needs an overall strategy. I think we’ve ignored environmental technology as a development area for too long.”