Race to Save the Earth

The upturned turf, the thundering hooves, the multitudes gripped by the same tension: victory or nothing. The race was on. The burning rubber, the smell of fuel, the roar of some of the most powerful engines ever built, the multitudes gripped by the same tension: victory or nothing. The race is still on.


Elite entertainment just got better. Though horsepower is still the preferred measure of quality, the sinuous horses have been replaced by the gleaming chassis of some of the most competitive cars the world has ever seen. This is Formula One- the King of the Motorsports– reaching over 600 million viewers each race day. This is Formula One: the best marketing strategy that environmental awareness can find.


For those who question or indeed mock the relationship between the perceptibly wanton splurge that is Formula One and the race to save the planet, this will be food for thought: team bosses are using the sport as a pulpit for environmental consciousness. There are those that will continue to mock this as a wry parody of all the sincere efforts to save the planet but there are details that will shock even the non-believers.


Formula One racing- collectively, though not unanimously- has acknowledged its responsibility to society and the environment and plans are in motion to cut carbon emissions and wastes by 2011. Starting from 2007 a number of new rules have made sure that these seething machines make the most of the valuable energy that they were once letting go of. The Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) is one of the most prolific additions yet to be made to the cars. By this system, the energy that the car spends in braking (from speeds of over 200 mph to as low as 50 mph in 2.5 seconds) is gathered up and sent back into electric motors for acceleration. All this technological advancement is not just purely for the competition. Most of the 10 racing teams on track are owned by carmakers. What Formula One achieves in terms of breakthroughs in braking technology and fuel research will directly translate to serious changes in the way cars are built for the roads as opposed to the track. The automobile industry, in this manner is making racing their Research and Development arena.


Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director said, on the Official Formula 1 Website, ‘In F1 we have an unrivalled development speed. We are pushing the envelope on a weekly basis and we can explore unknown territory in a much quicker and more efficient way than a complex road car project.’ So for all those cynics that believed that the sport is all about wasting precious fossil fuels even as the world tries to come to terms with the energy deficit that we shall all face, this is the wake up call. Formula One Racing contributes to the technology that filters down to the road cars that you and I will drive.


The teams have made it a point to implement direct changes in the way they operate their HQs too. Among the teams that are making waves with their pioneering reforms are Honda, McLaren, Renault and Ferrari, the leading names in the trade. Formula One racing is getting a stunning new facelift. Though old habits die hard and it is terribly difficult to reduce pressure on the environment while running wind tunnels that are every environmentalist’s worst nightmare, the focus of F1 is moving away from the aerodynamics and towards competitive overtaking on the track.


The men in control all know that they will now be dealing with a generation that is more conscious of the environment and sustainability. They realise that it is this generation that will decide whether the sport will become a dinosaur. They see this as another challenge to surmount. Keeping in tune with the times has never been a real problem for these speed-demons. You see, they’re so quick that they’re always a couple of laps ahead of everything.


Karishma Modi

[Image source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/uppure/2693808301/]