Formula 1 – and motorsport in general – might not normally considered to be an environmental activity, but there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Formula 1 cars, for example, are the most efficient petrol-powered cars in the world: converting far more of their energy into forward motion than any other conventional car that you can drive on the road.
But it doesn’t stop there. The governing body of world motorsport, the FIA, has recently put in place a comprehensive programme that awards a number of stars to the various companies that are involved in the sport, depending on their environmental credentials. The top score is three stars, and Pirelli’s motorsport division has just become the first tyre company to achieve this prestigious recognition, as a result of all its initiatives to help the environment. Other well-known teams, such as Ferrari and Williams, have also benefitted from similar three-star awards: part of Formula 1’s global vision for a more sustainable future.
As a matter of fact, it’s nothing new. Pirelli has always put sustainability high up its agenda: with a detailed corporate road map to becoming carbon net zero in the very near future, and a series of environmental initiatives that run through all of its global business and manufacturing operations. That extends to everything that happens trackside as well, with Pirelli’s Formula 1 hospitality no longer using plastics, for example, and a strict sustainability audit having taken place, which means that everything is now conducted in a more environmentally-friendly manner.
The FIA’s certification programme looks at every aspect of environmental awareness – with Pirelli proud to be the very first tyre company in motorsport to gain this important three-star recognition. As Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali puts it: “Pirelli has demonstrated a clear environmental direction and commitment. Formula 1 is well-known for its innovation and technology, and we are using that heritage to ensure we have solutions that can make a real-world difference.”
Another good example of how things have changed in recent years is the way that tyres are tested. Pirelli uses fewer and fewer physical prototypes these days. Instead it relies increasingly on virtual modelling and computer simulations to put prototype tyres through their paces digitally, without any physical prototypes being produced.
Not only does this save on resources, but it also minimises carbon footprints, with no cars, fuel or travel required to run the tyres. Of course, final validation always takes place with real tyres, but a lot of the preliminary work can now be carried out in a more environmentally-friendly way.
More than a decade ago, before sustainability really became a big global talking point, the late Max Mosley – who headed up the FIA at the time – said: “The question that motorsport will need to ask itself in future is this: does it want to be part of the problem, or part of the solution?”
Those were remarkably prescient words. And Pirelli has opted to be part of the solution.