Sabyasachi Patra

Environmental Impact of Night Race in Formula 1

 Environmental Impact of Night Race in Formula 1

I am a big fan of Formula 1. Every day, I search all the websites reporting Formula 1 info. The disappearance of Narain Karthikeyan from the starting grid in 2006, made me sad, but didn’t diminish my enthusiasm for Formula 1. It never will, as Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor sports. 

These days, the rules of Formula 1 are changing, supposed to be for the better. I am not sure. It is said that Formula 1 is aiming to reduce its environmental footprint. It is said, that Formula 1 is moving towards a cleaner and greener future. The KERS system (an energy recovery system) is going to be incorporated in the cars from next year and is projected as an effort to move towards a greener future. The rule mandating the driver to use the same engine in two consecutive races is more to limit the cost rather than to reduce the environmental impact. Honda, has painted their Cars in their so called “Earth Livery”. Is this enough? Is Formula 1 serious about environment?

Let us examine a recent move to introduce a night race. Formula 1 races are held at 2 pm in the afternoon on race days. However, that is going to change, when for the first time, a race is going to be held in the night at Singapore. The night race was conceived to beam the race to European viewers at a time convenient to them. It is also aimed to bring in excitement, which is lacking in most of the races due to the lack of overtaking. With increase in street races, the overtaking opportunities are minimal. So the night race is supposed to inject a dose of excitement into Formula 1. It is being hailed as an historic event. However, lets us examine the impact of the Night race on the environment.

The race track in Singapore is 5.067 kilometers long. To light this 5.067 kilometer cirucuit, 108,423 metres of power cables, 240 steel pylons and around 1,600 light projectors are used. Each bulb is of 2000 watts. The total power requirement to light the circuit is supposed to be 3,180,000 watts. The lighting level with around 3000 lux, is supposed to be four times brighter than the lighting in sports stadiums. Considering that there would be practice in Friday, qualifying in Saturday and race is Sunday; the race track will be lighted for atleast three days. So the total power requirement would be 3*31800000 watts i.e. 3*3.18 Megawatts ie. 9.54 Mega watts. Apart from this there would be additional lights brought by the teams to light up their pit areas. I am not sure how many hours the lighting would have been tested to satisfy the officials.

 It is estimated that 1 Megawatt will light up 800 homes in USA for a year as the average household consumption of energy in USA is 11,000 Kilowatt-hours. So the 10 Mega watts of extra energy that would be used in a night race would light up about 8000 homes in USA. The average household in a country like India consumes about 3880 Kilowatt hours in a year. This implies that 10 mega watts of power would be able to light up about twenty two thousand and six hundred (22600) homes in India for a year. Is it not phenomenal?

Do we need such a lavish spectacle? Consdering that there can also be other ways to increase the appeal of Formula 1 like increasing overtaking possiblities, conducting a night race in my opinion is not an environment friendly option.  

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Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi is an award winning Cinematographer and shoots for international broadcasters, feature films and corporates to make a living. He is a passionate wildlife filmmaker and photographer and has won awards and accolades for his documentary 'A Call in the Rainforest'. He has been striving to make his films and photographs full of life and emotion and write articles to educate and evangelise the need for conserving the last tracts of vanishing wilderness and wildlife in our country. He hopes that his wildlife films, photographs and writings force people to pause, look, ponder and ultimately take action.
Sabyasachi Patra
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