How Formula 1 And The Australian Bushfires Are Similar
Times of tragedy are also times for reflection and growth
You may read that headline above and scratch your head, but hear me out… We don’t have to dig very deep to see the striking similarities between this devastating environmental event and Formula 1. The Australian bushfires are one of the biggest environmental disasters that the world has ever seen. We all heard about the Californian fires and the Amazon fires in 2019, which burnt a total of 250,000 and 2.4 million acres respectively. The Australian fires though ended up burning through a total of over 12.3 million acres of land, almost 5 times more land than the Californian and Amazonian fires combined! Whilst many of these fires couldn’t be prevented, the impact of them possibly could have been limited through what’s called hazard reduction burns. This process involves the fire department going through and performing a controlled burn of as much of the ‘fuel’ (dead leaves and dry/dead bushes) as they can. This then limits the severity of the future fire making it easier to contain and extinguish. Even though this process is being conducted by the experts it still requires a permit to be done. The property owners whose land could be burnt need to sign off on it, a slow process which all too often ends up being beaten by a deadly bushfire.
It is this process where I see the similarity to F1 whereby all teams are able to vote on regulation changes and even the overall direction of the sport. This is an arduous process that can often take months or even years to complete. The main reason for this is that most of the teams are looking out only for their own differing interests, and not at the interests of F1 as a whole. Other racing series don’t appear to have this process and have quickly moved forward with their environmentally sustainable futures. WEC has chosen to go down the hydrogen power route whilst Formula E has decided battery power is the way to go. After much debate with existing and potential new teams, F1 has decided to stick with their current engines and slowly turn to alternative ‘carbon neutral’ fuels. I feel though this decision was made more out of necessity as F1 was completely blindsided by the choices of seemingly ‘inferior’ series. These ‘inferior’ series though are are on steep development curve that will certainly come to threaten F1 in the future. These series aren’t hamstrung by a complex web of agreements with teams and are free to not just respond to what the general population wants, but to look way into the future and give the world what it needs before anyone even knew it was needed.
Another thing we see time and time again is when governments of the world along with F1 management decide to think with their wallets rather than their heads. Whilst we can’t deny the fact that both need to collect slightly more money than they spend to operate effectively, there’s been too many times where this is taken too far. At the end of the day no matter if you’re a regular citizen or an F1 fan the outcome of these decisions is almost always to our detriment. Sometimes the results are immediate but many times it’s way into the future. International readers may not be aware but the Australian Government’s current policy is to simply meet their climate change targets. It is this choice of words that is troubling, as we all know that to truly succeed in anything we need to not just meet our targets and expectations but exceed them. I won’t be making any judgements or calls on the choices of where the government is choosing to spend its money. What I will say though is that with this way of thinking I’m sure that the government will be looking at how little they can get away with spending on climate change policies to line their pockets for other less important areas.
The management of Formula 1 has also been accused many times for choices that seem to line their own pockets and leave fans high and dry. Theres no example more relevant than F1’s decision to sell its TV rights to cashed up pay-TV networks, leaving many fans with no way to watch. The TV rights have become a valuable part of F1’s revenue stream and so it should be. The series has worked hard over many years to become the most watched sporting series in the world. What is forgotten by those within F1 is the fact that the monetary value of these TV rights is being valued off the fanbase created by its past free-to-air TV exposure. The choice to sell the rights to the highest bidder may be great for the income now, but in the long run it will definitely hurt the sport. Fans (especially the casual ones) will then turn to other racing series or even completely different sports as F1 makes itself more difficult to access and follow.
In times of tragedy it’s important to remember that no matter how devastating the event was, there’s always something to learn. Hopefully F1 can look at this event and see the similarities of the way it’s running and alter its course for the good of the sport. Will it happen? I guess only time will tell.