Formula 1 Insight

The Greening of F1
Focus has been on James Porteus' article in The Herald about how dangerous F1 is in terms of global warming. As reported by F1-Live, the FIA has responded to the charges but in so weak-kneed a manner that I cannot let it pass without comment.

McLaren Launch in Valencia
All that energy expended, tsk, tsk...

As I have said before, it is useless to accept the premise of man-made global warming if you want to defend F1 against environmentalist accusations. To parade the FIA's list of proposed green measures is merely to invite demands for even more to be done; Porteous' ignorant statement that "The faster the car, the faster it destroys the Earth" is evidence of the closed mindset of the environmentalists. They will not be happy until F1 has gone forever.

Fighting the battle on the environmentalists' ground is bound to lose; F1 has to hit them where it hurts - on the scientific fallacy that is anthropogenic global warming. There is no need to bow to the myth just because it happens to be flavor of the month.

I have said enough already on this subject for readers to know my views and I do not propose to bore them again. By all means, watch Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, but balance it by also watching the documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, and the brief explanation of how Gore twists the facts, The Scare Tactics. It's called hearing both sides.

There is still a debate and, believe it or not, the warmies aren't winning.


Nigel Hamlin
Hi Clive,

As you will likely recall, we had some discussion a while ago about the new common EMUs approved by the FIA and source from "Microsoft" under the McLaren/Audiolab electronics guise, IIRC.

The FIA could easily stem this rising tide of environmental issues by announcing an intention to switch ALL racing vehicles to use an alternative fuel. I have extremely serious doubts as to the long-term viability of the fuel cell approach, because they're expensive and the Earth's resources of some of the materials used are a lot more finite than many people realise! It is, therefore, an unnecessarily complicated, expensive technology and also would require the whole of the power train to be revised, throwing baby out with the bathwater.

Bio-fuels don't get my vote either. The global population is fast reaching the point where we'll not have enough land to produce the amount of food needed to meet demand, which means prices will rise and those who are already disadvantaged will become even more so. We also need to bear in mind that the world is already losing low-lying flatland to rising sea levels - land which just happens to be, generally, the most fertile and productive! So, to start using a significant proportion of that same land to grow crops specifically for bio-fuels will only exacerbate an already serious problem. I'm also against the proliferation of the nasty yellow stinkweed, otherwise known as oil-seed rape, much of which is being grown now specifically for use in bio-fuel production. Not only is this crop extremely nasty to be close to - and not only because it smells so disgusting - but I suspect that farmers are finding that they can get a better financial return from the bio-fuel industry than they can from the supermarkets. It seems people are prepared to pay more to fuel their cars than they are to fuel themselves - although, of course, bio-fuels have a distorted position in the market, due to the much lower duty levied compared with petroleum!

So, what does that leave us with? Wind power? Heh-heh! Hardly! No, I think the best,. serious option is actually hydrogen. Just use it as a straight fuel, in place of petrol. It actually burns hotter, so the engine guys will need to do some work(!), but otherwise, as I understand it, BMW have produced prototypes using their standard engines (well, I say standard, but of course there's not so much about BMW engines that is 'standard'!), with some tweaking of the fuel injection control systems.

If the FIA were to require all the teams to switch to using hydrogen by, say, 2010, that should therefore be plenty of time for them to do the necessary work - might need to handicap BMW somehow, I suppose, otherwise they could have something of an advantage! It would do a lot of good in terms of publicising the usability of hydrogen and aid the filtering down of this 'technology' to the cars we all drive on the roads. And the teams would also be able to demonstrate clearly that hydrogen tanks ARE safe in the event of a collision (with F1, we shouldn't have to wait too long for some of the drivers to show us this!), which is probably the most often cited public 'concern' where hydrogen is concerned.

The other advantage for the teams will surely be that they'll finally be able to dispense with those awful gravity-fed refuelling hoses! Hydrogen fuel, by definition, has to come through a high-pressure, and hence much smaller, hose with a reliable connector... Oh, and I *think* it actually does weigh less too - but I'm not totally sure about that!

Of course, until the tech does filter down to the cars we all buy and drive on the roads, and we all buy one(!), one of the biggest pollutants due to F1, and all the other racing that takes place, is that produced by the audiences in getting to the circuit/venue. Their carbon contribution makes that of the actual competitors look totally insignificant!

Date Added: 06/06/2007

Gone Away
I agree totally, Nigel (and yes, I do recall our previous discussion on the standard ECUs to be introduced) - hydrogen is the best alternative fuel available to us today. Not only is it clean but it would require very little modification to existing engines - there are people who have been using it for years in basically-modified road cars. Thanks to the Hindenburg disaster, it has a bad press but that would soon be forgotten if F1 were to demonstrate how safe it is, just as you say.

The side effects of bio-fuels are rarely mentioned yet already they have caused the price of corn to go up in Mexico thanks to the USA buying up corn stocks for conversion into fuel. The resultant poverty caused in such places as Mexico should give us pause before rushing into apparently easy solutions to the problem.

Producing hydrogen cheaply (and without electricity generated by fossil fuels) has been the major stumbling block to its use in the past, but a recent discovery at Purdue University has produced an answer - aluminium alloy pellets and water. They have patented the process and are preparing to market it - that could be a big break-through. The relevant article is here.

If we can introduce some reason and common sense into the global warming debate, it will be realised that there is no mad panic to introduce alternative technology overnight. There is plenty of time left (even the IPCC predict a temperature rise of only 2.5 degrees at most in the next 100 years) and research is producing workable answers that can be instituted well before then.
Date Added: 06/06/2007

Number 38
Hi friends,
It looks like there's three of us in reasonable agreement although I might be the more extreme of the three, I don't accept man as capable of causing environmental change. Before anyone throws rocks at me, I'm not against helping certain issues, but to blame them on man and penalize all of us for something beyond reason is unreasonable itself. The earth has gone through ice ages and warming periods for eons and if some scientists can prove a small warming period now ...... good for them, but it's not a crisis and not man's 'fault'.
My friends above have had a nice chat about the technical
changes being foisted on F1 but my contribution to the discourse is THEIR plans or ideas are not being considered, the FIA through it's president has already chosen a range of changes, none of which will reap much improvement and all will cost far beyond their benefit ...... sounds like a government program, eh? I am in favor of removing ALL aspects of MadMax Mosley's plan, return to the older, more simplistic regulations and let the Constructors determine which areas are worthy
of improvement.
Date Added: 06/06/2007

Gone Away
Welcome to F1 Insight, old friend! I, too, do not believe the hype about man causing climatic change but I do see the sense in finding alternative sources of power - the oil will run out sooner or later, after all. So it doesn't hurt to consider what other possibilities there might be, as long as we make changes in a rational and careful manner. And hydrogen is about the best possible answer that I've seen so far.

As for Mighty Max and his brave new world, well, you know my thoughts on that score... ;)
Date Added: 06/06/2007

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