F1’s Davos Bravado

I was reading and interesting article over at BBC about F1’s new sustainability boss at Davos.

Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Yath Gangakumaran, F1’s person for delivering a ‘carbon neutral’ sport by 2030 said:

“Up until 10-15 years ago sport wasn’t run in a mature way – typically by ex-players not business professionals. It’s become much more professional and is catching up with other industries, and that includes on sustainability.”

I appreciate that he is trying to make a point but I take great exception to this statement. The level of pretentiousness is quite stunning if I am honest.

Where was Yath when Francois Cevert was severed in two or Tom Pryce at the South African grand prix in 1977? Where was he when death was unremarkable in the 50’s and 60’s due to the lack of safety measures?

Where was Yath when the sport faced the FISA/FOCA war and the control for the sport was wrested from disorganization to one consolidated group under a Concorde Agreement cementing teams to long-term involvement? Was Yath there when the sport grew from its humble beginnings to a billion-dollar+ business?

Was Yath hanging around those non-business professionals when the invented the monocoque, active suspension, paddle shifters, outrageous aerodynamic designs, incredible tire compounds, bullet-proof lightweight helmets, rearview mirrors, disc brakes, ABS, DOHC engines, wings, carbon fiber cars, turbochargers and much more? Not bad for a bunch of non-business professional hacks.

I understand if sustainability is the thing F1 is focused on but that doesn’t give you license to denigrate, eviscerate, and dismiss everything that has happened before the 31-year-old Yath was born. Being green is not an official license to to become a blunt object. Read an F1 history book before you discount the billion-dollar business your bosses just bought.

I am no one’s apologist here. I understand the gaps and missing evolution that the previous owners of F1 represented and to be sure, focus was not on sustainability but I grow tired of that word being used to bludgeon issues, industries and people with reckless abandon.

Look, words carry a lot of freight with a lot of people. It is important to know what words mean before slinging them around for great effect or using a particular cause as a sharp object to dismiss everything that has happened prior to your appointment as the sustainability guru.

This portion of the article caught my eye on the heels of the piece I wrote here.

“The sport will also continue to fly its operation around the world, and while Mr Gangakumaran says its absolute carbon footprint will decrease, it will have to rely on some carbon offsetting.

This may anger the fiercest environmental campaigners, who view offsetting – for instance, by planting trees to compensate for your emissions – as a cop out.

But Mr Gangakumaran says the business will keep it to a minimum and has to be realistic. “We are a global sport and we have fans around the world who want to see F1. That requires travel.”

The article says that Yath admits F1 can’t control the carbon impact of its fans and says they will focus on what they can control. Except that they can’t control the freight element and will engage carbon offsets…which I mentioned earlier this week in my post about F1 joining the UN sport climate action group.

So if 2030 comes and F1 has done some measures toward lowering their carbon footprint and then engage carbon offsets for the rest, is that really a result that gives license to berate the previous owners and advances F1 has made in its 50+ year history? The amount of lives that have been saved in F1 through these advances are far more impressive than buying carbon offsets.

Yath continued:

“You can’t say anything is 100% but we wouldn’t be putting these targets out there if they weren’t ambitious enough or we didn’t think we could achieve them,” Mr Gangakumaran says. “Most importantly our fans are totally behind us on this.”

Are they? If they aren’t, will you explain how the sport is littered with non-fan professionals? Pump the brakes a bit Yath. Let’s have a more civil, mature discussion about this shall we?

Hat Tip: BBC

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Tom Firth

I know your focus here is about his exact role, but this has basically been his bosses mantra since they bought F1, Bratches,Carey, Brawn… this chap of going ahh but before we came, F1 wasn’t run as a professional business etc. They’ve all said it and I agree, it’s sad that they feel to need to denigrate everything BCE did for this series, sure he and his associates had flaws but you’d think F1 was still a bunch of poorly developed events, not a business they bought for billions. It almost reads as them still being threatened by what he… Read more »