Does Formula 1 still have a place?

At a time when science is advocating for a radical reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions and our resource consumption, but also for a reduction in the place of the car in our society, we should turn our backs on the formula. 1 ? If our governments unreservedly defend the holding of the Montreal Grand Prix, others will think it’s time to put an end to it.

Reflection on the apparent inconsistency in motor racing in today’s environmental context is not limited to environmental groups alone. Last May, as part of the show Question time, on the airwaves on the BBC, the four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel himself admitted to having questioned the subject. “It’s my passion to drive a car, I love it. When I get out of the car, of course, I also think, “Is this something we should do, travel the world, waste resources?” »

Professor at the Department of Urban and Tourism Studies at UQAM, Dominic Lapointe, is unequivocal: It is high time to question this type of show event. “The goal is ultimately to burn gasoline off in order to create strong emotions by turning cars into circles,” he sums up.

All the glitter and praise from the car in connection with this race, which will be highlighted in the Quebec media over the next few days, also reflects, according to him, an “outdated” vision of tourism and a city like Montreal. “Formula 1 is an event associated with luxury tourism, very flashy, with luxury hotels, stars, social events, etc. It is a sport that follows money. And it is also a sport associated with car culture. F1 shows us our fascination with this machine, which has increased our ability to act, but also our ability to harm ourselves. »

While the scientific community pleads for a drastic reduction in our use of natural resources, even a decline, Yves-Marie Abraham, professor at HEC Montreal and member of the Polémos research group on crop rotation, condemns the holding of the Grand Prix. “It is an event that embodies everything we blame growth companies for. We can only oppose it for obvious ecological reasons. It is a showcase for the car industry that we need to get out of, it burns fuel and promotes speed when we need to slow down. And money occupies a significant place there, while we try to put forward the idea of ​​a society where the accumulation of money would not be an end. »

Researcher at the Department of Socio-Economic Research and Information, Colin Pratte, for his part, doubts the relevance of public funding investments from the three levels of government to maintain the Grand Prix at least until 2031. According to his calculations, between 2009 and At the end of the current agreement with the owners of F1, more than $ 400 million of public funds will be disbursed to this company, whose market value is close to $ 30 billion. And this amount does not take into account all the costs associated with the maintenance of the track (almost $ 90 million between 2017 and 2020) and the construction of new folds ($ 60 million), completed in 2019, and which are already experiencing problems.

Carbon neutrality?

In Montreal City, Mayor Valérie Plante’s office unreservedly defends the event after two years of cancellation due to the pandemic. “The city of Montreal has a contract until 2031 to host the Grand Prix, which is a flagship event during the tourist season and the economic flare-up of the city center”, it is claimed, recalling that “the ecological transformation is a priority for our administration. ”According to a study published in March last year and conducted during the 2019 Grand Prix, the annual economic impact on gross domestic product is estimated at $ 63.2 million.

Quebec’s Environment Minister Benoit Charette, for his part, welcomes F1’s commitment to the fight against the climate crisis. ‘All types of industries must do their part to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. As such, we emphasize F1’s commitment to be CO2 neutral by 2030, “his office said in a written response.

The organization promises to reduce its CO2 footprint to zero by the end of the decade. In 2019, this was estimated at 256,551 tonnes per year, corresponding to the emissions of almost 105,000 cars. This balance is largely due to logistics and travel around the world (45%), while emissions from race cars make up only 0.7% of the balance. However, this does not take into account emissions associated with spectators or tourism related to the 22 races held in 20 countries. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, the company has promised measures to reduce its waste production, the use of plastics and the resources needed for cars.

“Patriarchal virility”

Dominic Lapointe nevertheless marvels at the real value of the industry’s commitments. ‘Their plan contains a lot of artistic vagueness. We are talking about CO2 neutrality, but also about offsetting emissions. However, this compensation must be used when greenhouse gas emissions can not be avoided. In the case of the F1, we are in for a conspicuous consumption, so carbon neutrality would be easy to achieve: We do not need cars that drive in circles and burn petrol. F1 is a form of waste that we are now trying to justify through technological development and principles such as CO2 neutrality. »

For the director of national policies at Climate Action Network Canada, Caroline Brouillette, and the spokeswoman for Greenpeace, Patrick Bonin, it is obvious that the “green” speech from the owners of the F1 circuit is not enough. “Holding the Grand Prix sends the wrong message that transportation is not a problem, when in fact it is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec, and emissions from this sector do not stop rising,” says Mr. Bonin.

Yves-Marie Abraham also believes that Montreal is more than ripe for a reflection on the future of racing on Île Notre-Dame. “The Grand Prix may be interesting to tourists, but for Montrealers it makes no sense. The problem is that we have leaders who are completely trapped in old and completely outdated logics that make these large gatherings something important to the cities. Still, we got The island trip [à vélo] recently. It’s much more in line with Montreal’s needs. »

He further recalls that the Grand Prix is ​​associated with “a kind of patriarchal virility” and a recovery prostitution, an industry controlled by organized crime. “When will enough of us find this completely obscene?” It is, after all, the embodiment of all that one should deny. It is therefore incredible that it is still going on and that an administration like Valérie Plante continues to support the Grand Prix. »

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