The new, “green” FIA: Death by committee?

What’s in a committee? One of the new trademarks of the Frenchman Jean Todt’s FIA is a series of committees and sub-committees for this issue and that. It is a reflection of the French political system with its myriad committees and layers. Let us hope that, unlike the French system, it actually makes progress and achieves success by tackling the issues it was created to address.


Good news? Seems the FIA’s autocratic nature of the former FIA president Max Mosley regime may have ended. The bad news? It could simply be death-by-committee as so many years and political systems have taught us. Commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone and Mosley both agreed that F1 can only be managed by a dictator—hence the admiration for Hitler in the formers erstwhile statements this year.

The latest FIA news (via AUTOSPORT) is the appointment of ex-Ferrari engine chief Gilles Simon as the head of a new working group that will work along side the other groups in order to help F1 focus on new energies and more environmentally friendly technologies.

The environmental impact that F1 has is so infinitesimal to the entire ecosystem that it barely needs mentioning. The recent climate summit in Copenhagen eclipsed F1’s yearly impact by leaps and bounds and yet are we now supping at the trough of eco-guilt and terror? BUT…shouldn’t we: find new technologies and more efficient ways to use the resources we have? Absolutely! Be good stewards of the resources we’ve been given? Heck yes! But a committee to explore these issues at the behest of eco-warriors, over reactionary car makers blaming F1’s carbon footprint for their exit and the overall notion that batteries can replace combustion engines if we just “do it” seems to be pragmatism before eco-conscience once again.

The single biggest limiting factor in the world, as far as technology goes, is batteries. They store energy but demand a large carbon footprint in their construction and disposal and while they do a decent job of what they are designed for, there is massive room for improvement. Creating energy is easy, storing it is nearly impossible without making a volatile vessel that takes massive technology to create and even more to dispose of.

Should there be a new Eco-Tsar at the FIA? Well…maybe. Perhaps working with the various and numerous committees and sub-committees, the Tsar will define newer ways to be more efficient with the resources we use in F1. One of the largest, and most immediate effects, is to limit the amount of resources the teams have at their disposal. This would force teams to re-design more efficient systems and programs to extrapolate the same level of performance on the track—specifically, the use of fuel. Starve the engines with a leaner flow of fuel and allow the teams to create an engine that will still produce 18,000rpm with 900hp.

Todt said to Le Figaro:

“I am convinced that we absolutely must reflect the environment with new technologies.
“We must adapt to our time and review fundamentally motorsport – even create new disciplines.

“After giving up on KERS, we will accomplish nothing innovative next year. I’m sorry about that. I have therefore decided to create a working group…Gilles Simon, former boss at Ferrari engines, will join the FIA in this context.”

What does “reflect the environment” mean? Why are we wading into a pool of guilt-driven pragmatism instead of asking real, intelligent questions about what should be done, not what must be done to sate the angry mob? Is F1 destroying the Earth and melting the ice caps? Of course not. Did Honda, BMW and Toyota leave F1 because it was not “reflecting the environment”? I seriously doubt it.

I suspect F1 could rise above the current pop culture trends and look to something greater than emotional rhetoric or redistributing wealth to third-world countries in the hopes that a global community can be a thrifty, well managed car-buying group of responsible people living at one with Mother Earth. That is not F1’s mission or reason for existence. If we are worried that the “consumer” mentality is at large in F1 and that the excess is a plague on humanity—then stop the damn series. But I argue that it has an infinitesimal effect, given the enormity of the planet, and if you are still worried about the impact F1 has on you—put a helmet on!

F1 can, however, be a leading design bed for new technologies that can translate to the road car and mobility initiatives world-wide. Is F1 the forum for an all-new battery technology? Doubtful as the aerospace industry will be a prime candidate for that type of R&D. Better perhaps is the focus on reduced use of resources and safety (safety? Yeah, that’s the FIA’s mission in the world remember?). Can F1 help in road car safety? Absolutely it can and it can also help road cars become more efficient with the fossil fuels they use while we develop better battery technology or a completely alternate form of energy for mobility.

One of the issues is that we store a fuel and generate the energy needed by the consumption/destruction of that fuel. The delivery of energy is instant and on an as needed basis. The issue now is generating energy and storing it for when we need it. If we are to believe that the answer—for cars and not personal electronics—is in batteries; I fear we are heading in the wrong direction. We need a new, expendable energy source that is available and will generate the energy needed when we need it. Just as fossil fuel but without the “evil impact” this natural and organic element has on this…uh…natural and organic planet.

F1 was not created to promote a globalist ideology—it exists as entertainment and develops technology that sometimes translates to humanity via road cars…that’s it. Wake up! You’re having a bad dream. Dennis Quaid is not in your living room in a winter parka, the earth is not dying. She was here before you and will see your bones in her long after you have left your cash, belongings and right-thinking mind to the IPCC’s causes via a durable power of attorney.

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