Formula 1 has set itself quite the target – to hit Net Zero Carbon by 2030. But how sustainable is the sport already? Several racetracks have already taken up the challenge and have made great leaps towards the target with Dutch Grand Prix hosts Zandvoort leading the pack. Business of Motorsport tutor Emma attended this year’s race and was impressed by the circuit’s commitment to sustainability but wonders if they are are a way off achieving their aim of the world’s most sustainable circuit.
Joining the Orange Army
It’s been three long years since I’ve attended a Formula 1 Grand Prix as a punter. I’ve been fortunate to go to many GPs over the years – slowly ticking my favourites off the bucket list.
This year, it was the turn of Zandvoort. There are many reasons why this old school circuit appears on my ‘must see’ list. First, it’s old school! It’s also on the beach. One of the big selling points for me was the Orange Army factor. Having seen Max Verstappen’s fan club in full force at the Austrian race a few years back, my mind was boggling at the prospect of witnessing their adoration of the current world champion on home tarmac. They did not disappoint.
But with my tutor hat on, there are many other things I like to observe at live events. Some of this is from an event management point of view, some from the standpoint of entertainment. Live events are also a great barometer of how some future trends in motorsport are playing out in reality. The Dutch event has the lofty ambition to be the most sustainable race on the Formula 1 calendar. They are certainly going ‘all out’ with their green travel policy. Zandvoort town is locked down to cars for the entire weekend with only residents and selected event related traffic permitted to drive in the local area. According to event organisers, car parking spaces were reduced by 5% from the previous year with only 233 available in total. An estimated one-third of spectators (and quite a few event staff) used bikes or scooters as their mode of transport. Another one-third travelled by train using the excellent network of services from Amsterdam, Haarlem and other large towns across the region. Walking is also a popular option for those in the immediate vicinity.
2 Wheeled Revolution
If seeing is believing, then the circuit’s much lauded approach to sustainable travel was most visible through the multitude of cyclists wheeling into the circuit each day. It really was a sight to behold. The Dutch are a well-known cycling nation, but the sheer volume of bike traffic took their penchant for pedalling to another level. There was an impressive infrastructure of bike parking facilities at the circuit, each one named after an F1 Circuit. Nice touch! Others opted to leave their bikes outside the circuit at makeshift parking spots. Apartment block gardens were fair game as was any spare railing within 5 miles of Zandvoort. It’s one thing to incentivise spectators to travel sustainably, as many circuits around the world already do, but implementing a ban on cars is undeniably effective.
Some might say it’s easier for Zandvoort to implement such ambitious measures compared to other circuits. How can tracks without a strong cycling culture and infrastructure push a green travel agenda on event participants and fans? Some are certainly trying and Formula 1 itself is showing strong leadership on the wider sustainability agenda. Just this week, Formula 1 published its latest Sustainability, Diversity & Inclusion Progress Report. The document outlines progress towards the sport achieving Net Zero Carbon status by 2030. There is much to be commended in the various initiatives underway to support everything from sustainable fuels to engineering apprenticeships for under-represented groups. Working with race promoters is vital to achieving stretching targets on carbon reduction. In 2022, 70% of circuits introduced greener modes of travel to races, particularly through ‘last mile’ solutions such as shuttle buses, cycling routes and public transport. The Dutch event is listed as a best practice example along with Montreal.
Despite all the praise for Zandvoort’s travel plan efforts, it is interesting that the circuit only receives a 1-star rating in the second edition of the Sustainable Circuit Index. This annual index, produced by Enovation Consulting in partnership with Right Hub, assesses the sustainability performance of international circuits across a range of economic, social and environmental criteria. Top ranked circuits (Circuit de Barcelona and Mugello) are already achieving 4-stars. For all Zandvoort’s laudable efforts, there is still a long way to go to reach the heights most sustainable F1 race circuit.
While the sustainable travel options were clear for all to take advantage of, some of the circuit’s other initiatives were less visible. Okay, they did give a nifty recycle token to all spectators on arrival, but it wasn’t really explained how to use it. Turns out you could exchange them for recyclable cups and cans and receive more tokens or reduced-price drinks for returning them. Great idea, not well executed.
The sustainability section of the Dutch GP website also described a whole host of activities to support local employment, biodiversity and community engagement. While it can be more difficult for circuits to demonstrate how they are supporting stated social and economic goals, it is an important aspect of overall reporting on sustainability performance. By sharing good news stories and engaging more directly with fans on sustainability issues beyond green travel, Zandvoort is in a good position to move up the sustainability rankings.
It was great to be back visiting live Grand Prix events again. Zandvoort puts on a great show. The atmosphere was off the scale – every race should have an Orange Army! I doff my tutor hat to their green travel philosophy and look forward to seeing how the circuit pushes on with its wider sustainability plans. Next GP stop? Imola, I’m coming for you!