Emission Impossible

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Honda’s startling new F1 livery underlines how manufacturers need to combine their grand prix commitments with sensitive PR. But does a responsible attitude dilute the sport’s essence?

Final qualifying for the 1983 British Grand Prix, Silverstone: the days of sticky qualifiers and high-boost, sacrificial turbo engines. There were five fast, pole-contending cars and four of them had used up both sets of qualifiers. Patrick Tambay’s Ferrari was provisionally fastest. In the dying moments, who was left still to run their second set? As we stood on the banking at Copse and ran through each of the Renault, Brabham and Ferrari drivers, we arrived at the answer – “Arnoux!” – at the very moment René’s Ferrari trickled down the pitlane, turbo V6 burbling away, fresh stickers on the rubber still visible. He gunned out of the pits and over the horizon. Next time we saw him he was bursting into sight at the start of the pit straight, a growing red bullet chased by a heat haze. Copse was a serious brake from 190mph back then, but he seemed not to know. He teetered through, the car’s body language edgy and menacing, Arnoux’s corrections brutal and reactive. As he hit the gas on the exit, the exhaust smoke was extra black – a sure sign of sky-high turbo boost. You could see it still as he left our sight over the blue horizon on the way to Maggotts/Becketts. We could only imagine how it looked on the remainder of this insane lap, our mental images given extra colour by the commentators’ excited babble as Arnoux pressed on in his ragged magnificence. He crossed the line to snatch pole – his 18th in F1, and the last as it turned out. 

Many years later I got to ask Arnoux what those turbo cars were like to qualify, with massively more grip than you’d been used to up to that point, half as much power again and only an out lap in which to get acquainted with it all. “It was crazy,” he said. “Fantastic in a crazy way. I remember there was a button on the steering wheel that gave you even more boost, but you could only use it for maybe a second at a time otherwise the engine would detonate. On the qualifying lap you didn’t have time to think, you were just being thrown around, crashing over kerbs, taking as much speed as you dared into the corners and somewhere in my mind I would be trying to hit this button on the steering as often as possible
in-between all the crazy blur. When it was all over you couldn’t really remember much about it.”

Therein lies much of the sport’s raw majesty. Man fighting the machine, not so much exploiting it as taming it, throw-away engines as sacrifices at the altar of all-out performance, crazily illogical, madly dangerous. 

Contrast that to the politically correct, environmentally
on-message launch of Honda’s new F1 car, its earth-in-space livery intended to emphasise the planet’s frailty and to encourage us all to do our part to look after it. It’s a bloody brave thing to plaster on a racing car, an object that glamorises with high-profile profligacy the very thing responsible for a significant chunk of the gases that have led to the environmental crisis. 

The reality of how much F1 directly contributes to emissions, even taking into account air travel, is tiny. But it’s a sport just aching to be attacked on environmental grounds. Honda’s apparently anomalous message seems only to invite the green searchlight to be pointed towards the sport.

At the moment the sport can throw back some very strong arguments when the inevitable attacks do arrive. For one, the FIA has quietly been buying forestation credits for the last 10 years. When this is offset against F1, the maths says the sport is actually carbon neutral. For another, the chase for engine efficiency – used in F1 to create more power – brings gains that can be used to improve economy when applied to road cars. For yet another, the technology gains that F1’s intense competitive drive will bring to energy recovery devices when they are introduced in 2009 will, when applied to road cars, result in a much faster reduction of greenhouse gases from each car than would otherwise have been the case. By 2011, the likely introduction of a fuel-flow
formula in place of an engine capacity limit, and the introduction of technology that harnesses exhaust heat for power production, will undoubtedly enable F1 to discover gains that will reduce road-car emissions. 

If F1 could also rid itself of wings and downforce generation, then the resultant concentration on drag reduction would also be relevant to the methods used in lowering transport emissions. And the racing might be better, too. 

But this is far removed from the stirring endeavours of Arnoux at Copse in 1983, Jackie Stewart at the Nürburgring in 1968, Gilles Villeneuve at Watkins Glen 1979 or even Fernando Alonso at Suzuka in 2005. In moving with the outside world, the sport risks losing its essence. 

F1 has to do it, so long as it is populated with car manufacturers – yet another penalty grand prix racing pays for its reliance on them. Their problems have become the sport’s. Climate change and its potentially catastrophic effects are everyone’s concern, of course. But just as horse racing flourished as a sport long after the horse ceased to be a means of transport, so motor racing might in theory outlive the petrol-fired road car.

No matter what liveries are stuck on the cars, the day will come when F1 participation will become a huge PR liability for manufacturers. Then maybe the sport can go back to being a specialist endeavour that has no pretence to road-car relevance. Then its tiny consumption and emissions might be seen in their true perspective – and the essence of the sport might just survive.